The 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion in World War II

An Illustrated History of the First African American Armored Unit to See Combat


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About the Book

This is a comprehensive record of the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African American armored unit to enter combat. Assigned at various times to the Third, Seventh and Ninth armies, the “Black Panthers” fought major engagements in six European countries and participated in four major Allied campaigns, inflicting heavy casualties on the German army and capturing or destroying thousands of weapons, despite severe weather, difficult terrain, heavily fortified enemy positions, extreme shortages of replacement personnel and equipment, and an overall casualty rate approaching 50 percent. Richly illustrated and containing many interviews with surviving members of the 761st, this work gives long overdue recognition to the unit whose motto was “Come Out Fighting.” It recounts the events that in 1978—33 years after the end of World War II—led to the 761st Tank Battalion’s receiving a Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor a unit can receive. Also described are the efforts that resulted, in 1997—53 years after giving his life on the battlefield—in the Medal of Honor being posthumously awarded to Sergeant Ruben Rivers.

About the Author(s)

The son of a tanker in the 761st, Joe Wilson, Jr., a systems accountant in Washington, D.C., has also written for World War II magazine.

Bibliographic Details

Joe Wilson, Jr.

Foreword by Julius W. Becton, Jr.; ; Afterword by Joseph E. Wilson, Sr.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 323
Bibliographic Info: 141 photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006 [1999]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2862-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0455-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Foreword by Julius W. Becton, Jr.      1

1. The Fight for the Right to Fight      5
2. Camp Claiborne      18
3. Camp Hood      32
4. Destination E.T.O.      45
5. Last-Minute Preparations for Battle      49
6. The Big Hill Up There      55
7. The Living Nightmare of Bloody Hell      66
8. Hill 309      76
9. The Baddest Man in the 761st      82
10. Ruben Rivers Leads the Way      89
11. The Hot Spot at Honskirch      104
12. The Maginot Line      114
13. The 90 Degree Turn and Race into the Bulge      120
14. The Battle of the Bulge at Tillet      127
15. The Battle of the Bulge with the Paratroopers of the 17th Airborne      133
16. Desperately Needed Replacements      141
17. Cracking the Siegfried Line      150
18. Mopping Up the 6th S.S. Mountain Division, Nord      164
19. The Drive Across the Third Reich      171
20. Face to Face with the Holocaust      185
21. Advance to the Enns River      197
22. Whatever Happened to the 758th Tank Battalion?      206
23. Whatever Happened to the 784th Tank Battalion?      213
24. Occupation and the Fruits of Victory      224
25. The Presidential Unit Citation      239
26. A Dream No Longer Deferred      245

Afterword by Joseph E. Wilson, Sr.      285
Requiem of the Buffalo Soldier      291
Chapter Notes      293
Bibliography      301
Index      305

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “lavishly illustrated with photos of the participants…well documented, with a good bibliography. Recommended”—Choice
  • “well-documented…heavily illustrated”—C&RL News
  • “a worthwhile book of tank combat”—The Military Book Review
  • “complete history”—ForeWord Magazine
  • “Your book on the 761st is excellent. It is the best researched and best written book on the battalion. You have put together an accurate accounting of the achievements of the 761st and it should stand as the definitive history of the unit.”—Baron Bates (son of the late Colonel Paul L. Bates, the 761st commander)