Westholme Publishing

In a Segregated Military, the African American Armored Unit That Helped Patton Check the German Advance, Close the Rhine Ring, and Spearhead a New Postwar Army


The Black Panthers
A Story of Race, War, and Courage—the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II
Gina M. DiNicolo

$29.95 Hardback

$22.50 Paper

  • 352 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 30 b/w illus, maps
  • Military History
  • World Rights

About this Book

“Film and Television Rights Optioned by Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Studios
“Written in fine detail and in a spirited style, DiNicolo’s tribute to the 761st Tank Battalion illuminates a fighting armored unit that made both their community and their country proud.””
—Publishers Weekly

“Gina Dinicolo's The Black Panthers succeeds on multiple levels. It chronicles the organization, training, and combat operations of a separate tank battalion in World War II, shedding light on a lesser known aspect of America's armored experience. Its greatest strength, however, lies in the attention given to the individuals who served in the 761st Tank Battalion. Using a comprehensive mix of archival documents, personal interviews with surviving unit veterans, and input from their families, Dinicolo tells the unit's story from the perspective of the men who served in it. The result is a rich narrative of disparate individuals with their own personal aspirations and fears who forge a winning team. An evocative writing style coupled with exhaustive research make Black Panthers an excellent vehicle through which to understand race and Army racial attitudes as experienced by African American tankers.” —Robert S. Cameron, author of Mobility, Shock, and Firepower: The Emergence of the U.S. Army's Armor Branch, 1917-1945


Known primarily for being the first African American armored unit to see combat in World War II and onetime outfit of future baseball star Jackie Robinson, the 761st Tank Battalion was forged in a devil's cauldron of heat and prejudice at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Here, most viewed the tankers as tokens in a racial experiment, rather than as fellow American soldiers who would actually be deployed to fight a common enemy. Led by a small cadre of white and black officers, the 761st trained to the pinnacle of its craft. The Black Panthers, as they soon were called, proved their battle prowess against other units bound for combat on the parched Texas training fields. For this, they earned a coveted assignment to fight under General George S. Patton and go 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. Ambushed by a veteran German force, the 761st suffered heavy casualties in the confusion as they cut their way out of the trap. But the men rallied to overcome self-doubt and vindicate their losses. Quickly battle hardened, the tankers saw intense combat through November and when Germany launched its last-ditch offensive through the Ardennes in December, the 761st fought side-by-side with Patton's Third Army. Moving swiftly, the unit helped check the German advance, cut resupply routes to the forces surrounding beleaguered Bastogne, and drove the enemy back, recapturing towns crucial to the final defeat of Germany.

In The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage—the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II, historian Gina M. DiNicolo tells the full and unvarnished history of this important American fighting force. Relying on extensive archival research, including documents that had not been consulted in previous accounts, and interviews with surviving soldiers and family members, the author describes the unit's training, deployment, combat, and individuals, such as Sgt. Ruben Rivers, one of only seven African American men awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II heroism. The professionalism, dedication, and courage of the 761st and other non-white units made clear that the strength of the American army in the future lay with integration—one of the enduring accomplishments of these servicemen.

GINA M. DINICOLO is a military historian and award-winning journalist who has written on military topics for nearly two decades. She was a contributing editor at Military Officer magazine, where more than twenty of her stories graced the publication's cover. She is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in history, and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. She resides in Alexandria, Virginia.



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