​America is a country that is filled with heroes. Sadly many of these heroes have almost been forgotten as the years pass. We are going to look at several of America’s heroes who we don’t want to ever forget.

My friend Rocky Wright and I often share stories of historical events and American heroes and we got together to complete this remarkable story of some of America’s World War II African-American heroes who must not be forgotten.

​Just prior to and during World War II thousands and thousands of draft age men were called into the service of our nation.

During the war years over 16 million men and women served in all branches of the military service. One thing often overlooked is the fact that 1.2 million of these service men and women were African Americans. African Americans served on the Homefront, in Europe, in the Pacific, in China-India-Burma, and wherever American forces were deployed. And these African Americans served with honor and courage wherever they were sent .

​Before America entered into World War II, American military commanders and leaders in the War Department were back and forth on the use of “colored” troops in the military. But General Leslie McNair successfully argued for black troops to be allowed into segregated units in the Army. One of the first units to be tried and tested would be at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

The 761st Tank Battalion was made up of African American soldiers with both white and some black officers and was formed and activated on April 1, 1942 at Camp Claiborne.This unit had a very distinctive shoulder insignia of a Black Panther and they became known as “Patton’s Panthers” during World War II. The unit motto was “Come Out Fighting” and they were definitely a fighting combat unit!

While at Camp Claiborne the 761st participated in maneuvers throughout Louisiana and became very proficient in their M5 Stuart tanks. The unit learned armor maneuver tactics, gunnery, and maintenance of their tanks.

As their training ended in Louisiana the 761st was sent to Camp Hood, Texas where they received newer M4 Sherman tanks. They again had to learn how to use the mighty Sherman tanks, machine guns, mortars, and 75mm guns.

During all their training the 761st was rated “Superior” by General Ben Lear, who commanded the U.S. Second Army.

​Upon deploying from the United States, the 761st stopped briefly in England for training and familiarization, and on October 10, 1944 the unit landed in France and crossed over Omaha Beach. When they arrived in France they were assigned to General Patton’s Third Army and the 26th Division. The unit was comprised of 6 white officers, 30 black officers, and 676 black enlisted men. The 761st went into combat shortly after arriving in France, and during November 15th to 19th, S/Sgt. Ruben Rivers of the little black community of Holtaka, Oklahoma, became one of the first heroes of the 761st due to his actions with Company A in battle near Guebling, France against German Tiger tanks.

S/Sgt. Rivers, though wounded, continued to lead his unit until his tank was hit by German fire and he was killed.

His actions were almost forgotten along with other black soldiers who had accomplished heroic acts on the field of battle.

Sadly, African American soldiers were not given medals due to the great courage and risk of life that other units and soldiers received. Many black soldiers were nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor and many did receive battlefield commissions, but none received the Medal of Honor during World War II.

But Black heroes were not to be forgotten.

​After reviewing the many Medal of Honor nominations from World War II, on January 13, 1997 President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to the following African American soldiers: S/Sgt. Ruben Rivers 761st Tank Battalion (France 1944), 1st Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker 92nd Infantry Division(Italy 1945), S/Sgt. Edward Carter Jr. 12th Armored Division(Germany 1945), 1st Lieutenant John R. Fox 92nd Infantry Division (Germany 1945), PFC. Willy F. James, Jr. 104th Infantry Division (Germany 1945), Captain Charles L. Thomas 103rd Infantry Division (France 1944), and Pvt. George Watson 29th Quartermaster Regiment (New Guinea 1943). Finally after all these many years, the valor displayed by these African Americans had been recognized.

​But let’s remember there were many many more African American units, commanders, and soldiers who served with great distinction also.

On December 7, 1941 Doris Miller, US Navy mess steward, fought so bravely he received the Navy Cross for his gallantry during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. commanded the famous Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group and they escorted heavy bombers on their missions against German targets. They NEVER lost a bomber to enemy fighter attacks and the white officers and men of the 15th Air Forces always knew they were safe when the “Red Tails” of the 332nd showed up as their escorts.

From artillery, infantry, tank destroyer, naval, and air force units African Americans did their job in the fight for freedom despite the fact they did not receive the recognition due to them and the fact they were segregated from other white units during the war. But President Harry S. Truman changed this due to the brave actions of African American soldiers when in 1948 he began to desegregate all the armed forces in the United States.

​There are so many stories and facts about our African American heroes that I cannot list them all in my tribute to them. But it gives us incentive to want to find out and learn more of these almost forgotten heroes.

I want to congratulate Rocky Wright for purchasing and donating a portrait poster of S/Sgt. Ruben Rivers, African American Medal of Honor winner to the Sabine Parish Library.

This portrait will be displayed at the Main Branch of the Sabine Parish Library in Many, Louisiana for all those visiting to see. A great way to remember an African American Hero! I have seen it and it is so great!

Please stop in and view this print along with the display for Black History Month at the library.

​Even though they were not treated equally many times during their service, African Americans fought beside their white counterparts during World War II, and in today’s military they make up the greatest fighting force known and that is the United States Military!

For those who have served in battle there is one statement that will ring true to this day and that is “there are no atheists and racists in a foxhole.”

In America we are truly blessed as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave due to all of our heroes and of the sacrifices they have made for our great nation!

Rickey Robertson, a Vernon Parish native, writes a monthly historical story for Stephen F. State University Cultural Resources website. Robertson is a retired state trooper, a preacher, and a syrup maker, among many other things.