Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes

By Hymel, Kevin M. | Army, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes


Hymel, Kevin M., Army


Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton. Broadway Books. 302 pages; black and white photographs; index; $24.95.

The 761st Tank Battalion began as a social experiment but turned out to be a first-rate fighting unit in World War II. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, of Los Angeles Lakers fame, teamed up with Anthony Walton, a teacher at Bowdoin College, to provide a chronicle of the unit and its trials.

The 761st was formed in an effort to include black Americans in the war in a more active role.

On the eve of World War II, blacks only served in the military as stewards, aides and in other noncombat roles, despite having fought in America's previous wars.

Throughout their training, they were constantly told that they would never see combat and that they were only in tanks because the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had pushed for it.

As casualties increased, however, the battalion was sent to Europe to fight the German Army.

After a brief description of the black soldiers fighting a tank battle in the snow, the book gives an account of the formation of the unit and follows it through training, the war and the return home. Along the way, they encounter one form of prejudice after another from white officers, soldiers and local townsfolk, especially in the South, where the 761st trained. Even their dogged performance on the battlefield could not change the views of some whites. …

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