cover image The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage

The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage

Gina M. DiNicolo. Westholme, $29.95 (376p) ISBN 978-1594161957

DiNicolo, a historian and a former contributing editor at Military Officer, examines the origins, training, and triumphs of the first African-American armored unit during WWII, the 761st Tank Battalion, called "The Black Panthers." She blends declassified military documents with personal interviews to add texture and context, fleshing out the lives of unit recruits William McBurney, Paul Bates, Ivan Harrison, Trezzvant Anderson, Theodore Windsor, and Ruben Rivers (who would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor) as they endure humiliation and harassment in Jim Crow America while the military brass debated what role the black soldier could play. 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. (Aug.)