The 761st Battalion Commemoration Ceremony Honors African American World War II Soldiers
As a segregated African American unit in World War II, the 761st Tank Battalion took part in the struggle for racial equality.
ABC News Reporter Keisha Swafford has the story of how these soldiers are being honored through an historical ceremony.
World War II is underway, and this is the first time an African American Tank Battalion will see combat.
According to the Come Out Fighting: The 761st Documentary, Commander of the 761st Tank Battalion Johnnie Stevens said, “They said we didn’t have the brains to do it.”
But at age 22, Johnnie Stevens became the country’s first black tank commander.
In the documentary, Stevens says, “Wearing the same uniform, fighting for the same cause, for freedom, for justice for all, but yet, we couldn’t enjoy this freedom that I was fighting for.”
Stevens and his comrades liberated 30 towns on their way to Germany.
“We had fought for a right to vote, for freedom, and we come back, and we got the same old crap.”
His daughter Doreen Stevens is proud of her father for his heroic achievements.
“He went into the service because he felt that was his duty, but they were treated the same way there as they were treated here. But they had a point to prove so regardless of the treatment that they received, it was his duty to do a job and that’s where he went there to do.”
Historian and Sergeant of Texas Buffalo Soldier Association Clinton Warren spearheaded the initiative to fully recognize the men of the 761st Tank Battalion.
News Reporter Keisha Swafford says, “This monument is going to help people remember the first black tankers to ever fight in the American Army.”
“What it means to me is like everyone is coming out and acknowledging the great job that the 761st Tank Battalion did. Now people coming here today that’s them telling another person and that person is going to tell another person and the history of these guys and their legend is going to grow and stay in our minds and this history won’t die.”
Retired Command Sergeant Major Wayne Robinson is proud to see the men of 761st being honored for their accomplishments.
“During my 26 years of service, I didn’t know they existed and so in tough times, when I wanted to look forward, in front of me to see those who looked like me that had gone this way, they were invisible.”
He hopes more people will come together to celebrate the soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion.
The USDA Forestry Service will place the monument at the entrance of Camp Claiborne.