761st Tank Battalion
761 st was activated 1 April 1942. During the first year, no one
expected the battalion to see combat, but in may of 1943 Major Paul
Bates became commander. He told the black tankers that they would
see combat and started to train them for war. Every man had to learn
to operate every gun and every vehicle. The 761st move to Camp Hood
and there the German POWs had Post Exchange rights and were treated
better than the black soldiers. Racism was all around on and off the
On 8 November 1944, the 761st entered combat in France for the first
of 183 days of continuous combat. The first combat was alongside the
26 Infantry (The Yankee Division). Colonel Bates was wounded on the
first day of combat and was replaced by Colonel Hollis E. Hunt. In
the first 11 days of combat Sargent Ruben Rivers was wounded twice,
but refused to be evacuated. He was killed in action on 19 November,
while saving his unit. He was awarded the Silver Star, which was
upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 1977. In the first month of
combat, 25 men were killed in action and many more were wounded.
Only nine more men were killed in action during the five months of
the rest of the war. Total wounded were 22 officers and 180 enlisted
men, with eight men wounded more than once.
Colonel Bates returned to command 17 February 1945. For the rest of
the war the Black Panthers were always on the attack. The bravery of
these men was amazing, as was their dedication to duty. Wille J.
Devore believed he would be killed even before he got on the boat to
Europe, but he did his duty. He was one of the last of the Black
Panthers die in action.