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"Come Out Fighting": The 761st Tank Battalion

A book you should read M4 Sherman

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Rakkedyman #1 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 14:40

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The 761st Tank Battalion, nicknamed the Black Panthers, was a mostly segregated African-American armored unit in World War II. Activated in 1942, the 761st landed in Europe in 1944 and fought as part of Patton’s Third Army. They participated in a large number of battles and suffered heavy casualties, fighting Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS tanks and troops as they broke through the Siegfried Line. The 761st was one of the first American units to make contact with the Red Army, after having fought across France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Austria.

 

 

The famous baseball player Jackie Robinson served in the 761st as a second lieutenant. After refusing to move to the back of a bus during training, Robinson was arrested by military police. The commanding officer of the 761st refused to court-martial Robinson, who was then transferred to the 758th. The 758th’s commander charged Robinson with insubordination, and although Robinson was entirely cleared, the proceedings prevented him from fighting in Europe. This is only one of many instances of racism and violence, from both civilians and other soldiers, that marked the 761st’s time in the United States.

 

 

You can read much more about the 761st, including interviews and the entirety of the 1945 book Come Out Fighting, written by Trezzvant W. Anderson, who served with the 761st, on the official website of the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion.

 

 

I've seen some discussion of the 761st and the other WWII African-American tank battalions here, but no mention of the free availability of this book. It's packed with firsthand experience operating Shermans, including 105 mm Sherman assault guns. Not a lot of tank-on-tank action, and it's not as well-written as Commanding the Red Army's Sherman Tanks, but it's gripping - especially if you're interested in the history of civil rights in America. Despite the distinct awareness of the racism they were facing - difficulty getting supplies, a lack of war correspondents - there's a definite sense of optimism in the writing, which wasn't borne out by the reality of the postwar years.

 

In a bit of a gut punch, the book notes that in October 1945, when the book was published, the 761st's recommendation for a Presidential Unit Citation was on General Eisenhower's desk.

 

The 761st didn't get their citation until 1978.

 

I highly recommend any of you who are interested in Shermans, the Allied campaigns in Europe, General Patton, or the African-American units in WWII download and take a look at Come Out Fighting.

 

In closing, I'm extremely pleased to note that in 9.12, WG added the 761st's "Come Out Fighting" black panther logo to the available American emblems.

 



Globemaster1998 #2 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 15:04

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Thank you for sharing this. +1 m8.

HermanBix #3 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 15:55

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I have a couple die cast tank pieces in my collection that depict 761st Sherman tanks. One by Corgi 1/50th scale other by Dragon in 1/72nd scale. Definite must in any armored vehicle collection.

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Walter_Sobchak #4 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 17:37

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Ironically, more has probably been written about the 761st than on any other independent US tank battalion.  There are been several books published on this topic. Notable titles are:

 

Patton's Panthers: The African-American 761st Tank Battalion In World War II by Charles Sasser (2005)
 

Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2005) (Yes, this is authored by the former basketball player.)

 

The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage—the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II by Gina DiNicolo (2014)
 

The 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion in World War II: An Illustrated History of the First African American Armored Unit to See Combat by Joe Wilson (2006)

 

There is also an out-of-print book from 1976 with the rather non-politically correct title "Eleanor Roosevelt's N-----rs" which was written by Capt. David J. Williams.  Williams was one of the white officers who served in the 761st and he insisted on that particular title because that it was how other units referred to the black troops under his command.  He wanted the title to reflect the prejudice faced by the unit, the book title is not meant to be derogatory.  

 



BE_Schultz #5 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 17:47

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"Patton's Panthers" is a great read.  A1 post!!!  There is also documentary that can be found on youtube.

Rakkedyman #6 Posted Nov 25 2015 - 18:03

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View PostWalter_Sobchak, on Nov 25 2015 - 11:37, said:

Ironically, more has probably been written about the 761st than on any other independent US tank battalion.  There are been several books published on this topic. Notable titles are:

 

Patton's Panthers: The African-American 761st Tank Battalion In World War II by Charles Sasser (2005)
 

Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2005) (Yes, this is authored by the former basketball player.)

 

The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage—the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II by Gina DiNicolo (2014)
 

The 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion in World War II: An Illustrated History of the First African American Armored Unit to See Combat by Joe Wilson (2006)

 

There is also an out-of-print book from 1976 with the rather non-politically correct title "Eleanor Roosevelt's N-----rs" which was written by Capt. David J. Williams.  Williams was one of the white officers who served in the 761st and he insisted on that particular title because that it was how other units referred to the black troops under his command.  He wanted the title to reflect the prejudice faced by the unit, the book title is not meant to be derogatory.  

 

 

Thank you for the recommendations. I've seen some of them referenced before on this forum, but I'd never seen anyone talk about Come Out Fighting itself. No one seemed to be aware of it, which seemed like a crying shame, since it was written in 1945, by a guy from the 761st, with the help of other soldiers in the 761st, and it's available for free download.


Edited by Rakkedyman, Nov 25 2015 - 18:04.


Sad_But_Drew #7 Posted Nov 29 2015 - 12:20

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The 761st is in that little limbo as far as being known is.  They are not in common conversation (though Patton's possibly apocryphal speech is often quoted, and if he said it to any unit, the 761st was it),  On the other hand, they have been written about a bunch and are common knowledge to most historians.  Man-for-man they may well have the most written about them of any "line" unit in the Army (considering the Battalion would be less than 1000 men).  So they may not be famous or legendary, but they aren't "unknown".

 

The middle right picture was also in the Osprey book on US tank crews (larger size).  I found it interesting that.

1.  Several of the tankers appear to be wearing infantry gaiters.  Giving them the "long socks" look familiar from modern baseball players emulating the Negro (baseball) league style.  The above picture was taken in England, the "in action" photos suggest that wardrobe quirk didn't survive field conditions.

2.  The picture may set the record for variety in head-gear in one unit photo (2-3 different hat styles, plus one steel pot and several "football" helmets). 






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