The Black Panthers at War – The 761st Tank Battalion and General Patton’s Drive on Germany Book Review
The Black Panthers at War: The 761st Tank Battalion and General Patton’s Drive on Germany tells the full and unvarnished history of this important American fighting force. Known as the first African American tank unit to see combat in World War II as well as future baseball great Jackie Robinson’s one-time outfit, the 761st Tank Battalion emerged from adversity for a chance at their dream to take the fight to Hitler as American combat soldiers.
The book chronicles the 761st Tank Battalion as well as political and social luminaries of the day. Led by a small cadre of white and black officers, the men trained to the pinnacle of their craft to fight a common enemy. They proved their battle prowess on the parched Texas training fields against tank destroyer units bound for combat.
The 761st soon earned its coveted assignment to serve under General George S. Patton to fight head-to-head with the best of Hitler’s arsenal. Moving to the front in November 1944, trial by fire soon shook the unit to its core, but the men rallied to overcome self-doubt and vindicated their losses.
Battle-hardened, the tankers saw intense fighting through November and December – when Germany launched its last-ditch offensive through the Ardennes. The 761st fought side-by-side with Patton’s Third Army. The tankers drove the enemy back, recapturing towns crucial to the final defeat of Germany.
Author and historian Gina M. DiNicolo relies on extensive archival research, including documents not consulted in previous accounts as well as interviews with surviving soldiers and family members. In her hands unit members come to life, like Sergeant Ruben Rivers, one of only seven African American men awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II heroism; First Sergeant Sam Turley, a Medal of Honor nominee; and battalion commander Paul Bates who trained his nearly 700 men to be one of the best stand-alone tank units in the U.S. Army.
Publisher’s Weekly writes: “Intense… Powerful… Spirited… DiNicolo brings readers up close with a view from the turret, inside the M3 Stuart light and M4 Sherman medium tanks with two .30s caliber machine guns and a 50-caliber gun, explaining armor tactics mixing these tracked vehicles with infantry, gunnery skills, and communications.
“However, the book really heats up when she writes of the intense, deadly clashes with General Patton’s 761st tanks taking on the powerful German Panzer units in snowy forests and French towns.
“Written with fine detail and in a spirited style, DiNicolo’s tribute to The Black Panthers illuminates a fighting armored unit that made both their community and their country proud.”
Army magazine writes: “DiNicolo tells the Black Panthers’ story with clarity and sensitivity. Read it to learn what happened to 2nd Lt. “Jackie Robinson during his short service with the 761st. Robinson’s story is emblematic of all the Black Panthers. It saddens and inspires.”
The Black Panthers at War: The 761st Tank Battalion and General Patton’s Drive on Germany (ISBN 978-096629867, 2016). St. John’s Press, 348 pages. The book is available on Amazon and at most major book sellers.