If you are a professor, teacher or educator interested in the 761st Tank Battalion, you may also be interested in organizing a class project for your students that would help assemble information for this website.  Some class project examples:

(1) Write essays or articles about the 761st Tank Battalion (with selected articles being posted on this website.)

(2) Help update and validate the website's Roster by cross-checking veterans' names with reliable sources of information (such as Come Out Fighting, the book self-published by 761st members at the end of World War II.)

(3) Help compile database tables of events, places and people relating to the history of the 761st Tank Battalion.  This project would have as sub-parts:

(a) Technical design of database and tables for data entry and publication;

(b) Data entry of items (events, places and people) collected from reliable, referenced sources.

(4) Contribute ideas and examples for organizing website information to facilitate public reference and academic research.

In addition to these examples of project ideas, we are interested in any class project you may create that is appropriate for your students and related to the 761st Tank Battalion.  Over the past ten years this website has accumulated a substantial repository of information about the 761st Tank Battalion and our hope is to increase that material and make it better organized for reference and research.

If you may be interested in a class project that is coordinated with this website, please use the Contact form on the menu to the left.

Thank you.

Are you trying to find more information about a veteran?

It may be helpful to request a government copy of official records for military personnel.

The National Personnel Records Center of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), located in St. Louis, Missouri, holds military service records from World War I on, and is the official repository for records of military personnel discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard in modern times. Requests for copies of records must be made in writing.

Requests for copies of military service and pension records can be made by completing and sending NARA's Standard Form 180. Also, a veteran, or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, may use eVetRecs to prepare a specific written request for copies of military records that can be printed and mailed.

Note: In July of 1973, a fire destroyed millions of military personnel files. The affected records include 80% of Army personnel discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, and Air Force personnel with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E., discharged from September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964.

Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship

Col BatesThe Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 under the terms of Colonel Bates' will, and is administered and maintained by the Board of Trustees of McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland (formerly named Western Maryland College.) The Scholarship was established in memory of Colonel Paul L. Bates, Class of 1931, an All-American football player at the College, and commander of the 761st Tank Battalion, the first all African American combat tank battalion in World War II, a unit recognized by the President of the United States for extreme gallantry in action. The Scholarship, established as a tribute to the brave men who fought under the command of Col. Bates, provides awards for lineal descendants of members of the 761st Tank Battalion who served with the unit from August 1944 through April 1945. Recipients must be accepted to and attend McDaniel College, must possess and maintain a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) at McDaniel College and demonstrate financial need. In the event that no lineal descendants apply or are eligible, the Scholarship is awarded annually to a student with a 2.0 GPA or better demonstrating financial need, and excelling in extracurricular activities. McDaniel College is a private four-year college of the liberal arts and sciences where students from 23 states and 19 countries prepare for lives of leadership and service. A flexible curricula at both undergraduate and master’s degree levels, strong teaching, and location – near Baltimore and Washington, D.C. – provides students with an outstanding learning experience. For more information visit the McDaniel College web site at www.mcdaniel.edu. Further information on how to apply may be obtained from the Dean of Admissions (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , phone: 1-800-638-5005, v/tdd 410-848-7000.) For information on scholarships and financial aid contact the Director of Financial Aid at email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , phone: 410-857-2233.

 

 

Letter Requesting Help Identifying Descendants of 761st Veterans for

Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund (and also as potential members of the Association)



May 1, 2010

Dear Colleague,

The Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 in memory of Colonel Paul Bates at Western Maryland College (now known as McDaniel College).The scholarship was established as a tribute to the men who served with Colonel Bates from August 1944 through April 1945 and provides awards for lineal descendants of members of the 761st Tank Battalion.

Recently Colonel Bates’ widow, Mrs. Helen “Taffy” Bates has expressed concern that no descendants of the Battalion have ever taken advantage of the scholarship fund. A scholarship must be awarded every year even when there are no descendants of the 761st applying. This is lost money and opportunity to the 761st descendants whose predecessors fought so bravely for.

There were well over 600 original battalion members. I know that there are many grandchildren and great-grandchildren descended from them. In my family alone there are 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren descended from my father. Part of the problem may be that very few people know about the scholarship; also, there has never been a comprehensive list to identify battalion members, much less lineal descendants.

To help with this, I have enclosed a form that can be used to start building a data base with the names and addresses of all former 761st members and their descendants. Please fill it out with whatever information you have. If you know of anyone that may not have received the form, copy it and pass it on. If you know of any former battalion member that has passed, fill in what you know or forward the form to a family member.

This was very important to Colonel Bates and Mrs. Bates feels it is very important to his legacy – please help!

Sincerely,
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Please Click here for the form enclosed with the letter.)

 

 

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received an honorary degree and an Army Coin of Excellence at the McDaniel College Founders Convocation on September 29, 2007, for authoring Brothers In Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes. The book is dedicated to the 761st Tank Battalion's commander, 1931 McDaniel College alumnus and Silver Star recipient Colonel Paul Levern Bates. As a student, Paul Bates was captain of McDaniel College's undefeated 1930 football team, and an All-American in 1929 and 1930. A Trustee Alumni Award was posthumously awarded to Col. Bates during the convocation, and was accepted by his son Baron Bates.  The Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund, providing awards for lineal descendants of members of the 761st Tank Battalion, established in 1999 under the terms of Colonel Bates' will, is administered and maintained by the McDaniel College Board of Trustees.

 

 

 


761st Honored by American Veterans Center

 The 761st Tank Battalion was the recipient of the signature Audie Murphy Award presented at The Honors ceremony, the closing event of the American Veterans Center’s 18th Annual Conference, that took place from November 5-7, 2015, in Washington, DC. The award was among those presented at an exclusive black-tie dinner event on Saturday, November 7th, featuring musical performances, special guests and heroes from the last 75 years of military history. 

The ceremony was preceded by several full days of planned activity from early morning until late in the evening, including a reception Friday night at the British Embassy.

Describing the award, the American Veterans Center said, "The 761st made history in becoming the first African American tankers to see combat. Through their selfless service on the front lines, while proving to their countrymen that they were true and worthy soldiers, the 761st proved to be men of valor on and off the battlefield."  761st Tank Battalion veteran Thomas Mangrum accepted the award, accompanied by 758th Tank Battalion veteran John Weston and 761st Tank Battalion and Allied Veterans Association Secretary Ivan Harrison, Jr.  An edited video of the event (edited to 1 hour and 24 minutes) is available on the American Veterans Center website. John Weston and Thomas Mangrum can be seen accepting the award for the 761st about 14 minutes into the broadcast. Click here for the video.


Two months after the November ceremony, 758th Tank Battalion veteran John Weston passed away on December 29, 2015.  A video in his honor was posted by the American Veterans Center.

November 2015, AVC had the honor of conducting this interview with Weston at the annual Veterans Day Conference. Two months later, on December 29, 2015, John S. Weston passed away. This film was made in his honor - See more at: http://www.americanveteranscenter.org/2016/01/john-weston/#sthash.jC8jO7ss.dpuf
November 2015, AVC had the honor of conducting this interview with Weston at the annual Veterans Day Conference. Two months later, on December 29, 2015, John S. Weston passed away. This film was made in his honor - See more at: http://www.americanveteranscenter.org/2016/01/john-weston/#sthash.jC8jO7ss.dpuf

 


 

Taffy Bates Funeral

TaffyFuneral services for Taffy Bates, late widow of Col. Paul Bates, will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on August 18, 2015, starting at 9:00 a.m. She will be interred with her husband, Paul Bates, in section 60, grave 6101 on York Drive by Halsey Drive (the date could change but for now August 18th is on Arlington’s schedule.)

She passed away peacefully in her Florida home Sunday, October 19, 2014, at the age of 96. Born Helen Rosen in Queens, New York, “Taffy,” a name she fashioned for herself, volunteered for duty as an Army nurse during World War II. She railed against the inequities she found like curfews and lesser pay for nurses. She served in Louisiana as well as Texas and cared for the wounded near the front in the European Theater from the fall of 1944 until the war’s end. She left the Army after the war.
   
Taffy Rosen met then-Major Paul L. Bates at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, early during his years with the 761st Tank Battalion and she married him after the war. They had one son, Paul Jr. After Colonel Paul Bates’ retirement they looked at moving to Spain, but settled outside Tampa, Florida, in 1967, in a home designed by talented Paul Jr. Taffy became active in medicine and women’s medical rights. The Bates' love affair continued after Paul Sr.’s death in 1995. She spent her last 20 years keeping Paul Bates' memory alive. Her one wish: to join him again. She will be buried with her husband at Arlington Cemetery.


James B. Jones Legion of Honor

JonesPrivate First Class James B. Jones of Laurel, MS, a member of the 761st Tank Battalion's D Company, and five fellow World War II Mississippi Veterans, received France's highest honor, the Legion of Honor, at Camp Shelby on December 9, 2014.

Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest honor in France. It recognizes eminent services to the French Republic. Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction from the Legion of Honor. American veterans who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor.

Recipients of the honor were designated by the President of the Republic, François Hollande. "It is my great honor to recognize American veterans of World War II who courageously served their country to help liberate my country, France," said Denis Barbet, the Consul General of France in Atlanta. "I look forward to personally thanking these veterans from Mississippi who will forever be our heroes."

Also honored were veterans Adelchi A. Pilutti from Ocean Springs, MS (Technician 4th Grade, 508th Parachute Infantry),  William M. Amos from Hazelhurst, MS (Gunner's Mate 3rd class, USS LCT Flotilla Seventeen, LCT 776), John L. Balser from McComb, MS (Technician 5th Grade, 3444th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company) and James H. McBrayer from Brandon, MS (Private First Class, Military Police Platoon, 80th Infantry, 10th Armored Division.)


Hall Duncan Legion of Honor

Dr. Hall Duncan (Ph.D. in education) of Edmond, Oklahoma, a World War II veteran with numerous medals from his service in the European Theater, received  France's highest distinction, the Legion of Honor, in a ceremony at the memorial site for his fellow Oklahoman Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers (a 716st Tank Battalion Medal of Honor recipient) in Guebling, France.  Dr. Duncan served in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 101st Infantry, 26th Division (Yankee Division), Third Army and was honorably discharged as a Private First Class.  His previous combat awards included the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.  Pvt. Duncan and Staff Sgt. Rivers fought in the same battle near Guebling.


 

Legislation to name post office building for Burgess

July 31, 2103, update:

A measure has moved forward in the U.S. Senate to name a Champaign post office after a black World War II veteran who was also the county's first African-American elected official.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and government Affairs passed the measure honoring James R. Burgess Jr. on Wednesday.

News-Gazette.com reports:

Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Wednesday introduced legislation to designate the U.S. Post Office at 302 E. Green St. in Champaign as the "James R. Burgess Jr. Post Office Building."

Burgess was the first African-American elected to countywide office in Champaign County (in 1972, as state's attorney), and later served as a U.S. attorney in East St. Louis. Burgess also was commander of an African-American armored unit in World War II in the European theater.

His son Steve, a resident of Urbana, originally had sought to have the federal courthouse in Urbana named for his late father....  

... read more


 

Montford Point Marines Receiving the Congressional Gold Medal

On June 27, 2012, the Montford Point Marines were honored by receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. This highest civilian award in the United States was first presented during the Revolutionary War to George Washington.

 


 

 

Click here for the latest edition of the 761st Newsletter (June 10, 2011.)

Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with material or ideas for the Newsletter.

Additional editions are listed below.

June 10, 2011
April 15, 2010
March 15, 2008
September 1, 2006
December 31, 2005
June 5, 2005

Adobe Reader version 5.0 or higher is required to open and view an issue (click here for the Adobe site where the free Reader can be downloaded and installed.) These multi-page online Newsletters are in fairly large files that may take some time to download, unless you have broadband internet access.  The Newsletter, prepared and published by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , “is intended to be a vehicle for the members and associates to express opinions, make suggestions, share experiences and especially to keep in touch.”

 

 


 

 

Letter Requesting Help
Identifying Descendants of 761st Veterans
for Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund
(and also as potential Association members)

May 1, 2010

Dear Colleague,

The Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 in memory of Colonel Paul Bates at Western Maryland College (now known as McDaniel College).The scholarship was established as a tribute to the men who served with Colonel Bates from August 1944 through April 1945 and provides awards for lineal descendants of members of the 761st Tank Battalion.

Recently Colonel Bates’ widow, Mrs. Helen “Taffy” Bates has expressed concern that no descendants of the Battalion have ever taken advantage of the scholarship fund. A scholarship must be awarded every year even when there are no descendants of the 761st applying. This is lost money and opportunity to the 761st descendants whose predecessors fought so bravely for.

There were well over 600 original battalion members. I know that there are many grandchildren and great-grandchildren descended from them. In my family alone there are 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren descended from my father. Part of the problem may be that very few people know about the scholarship; also, there has never been a comprehensive list to identify battalion members, much less lineal descendants.

To help with this, I have enclosed a form that can be used to start building a data base with the names and addresses of all former 761st members and their descendants. Please fill it out with whatever information you have. If you know of anyone that may not have received the form, copy it and pass it on. If you know of any former battalion member that has passed, fill in what you know or forward the form to a family member.

This was very important to Colonel Bates and Mrs. Bates feels it is very important to his legacy – please help!

Sincerely,
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Please Click here for the form enclosed with the letter.)

 

 

 


 

 

Richard Carter Photos

 

2nd RunionSome interesting new material is available in the Gallery. First, Irmgard M. Carter, daughter of Tech-4 Richard A. Carter (the Association's President for several years in the 1950-60's) has kindly provided some beautiful photographs and memorabilia from and about her father, including the picture shown to the right of the Second Annual Reunion of the 761st Tank Battalion and Allied Veterans Association that was held in Chicago in August of 1950. Click here to see the Tech-4 Richard A. Carter Family Album in the 761st Gallery. Also, Col. Aaron M. Dotson has provided an abundance of photos and documents, also including reunion material - even a chronology listing all the 761st Association's Reunions and Presidents from 1949 to 2004. Click here to see Col. Dotson's album.

 

 

 

 


 

 

1st Sgt. Charles M. King

King

1st Sgt. Charles M. King was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 14, 2006. 1SG King was closely asscoiated with the 761st Tank Battalion, having provided artwork commemorating the Battalion that was part of a Black History Month display at the Pentagon in 1998, and is now being exhibited at military museums at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, and at Fort Knox, Kentucky. 1SG King attended Association reunions and particpated in the Honor Guard. His obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer includes a link to a Guest Book where condolences may be posted, and where Association Historian Wayne Robinson said, "Charles was the latter-day spiritual embodiment of the 761st Association tankers we came to know and love." Several news articles have been written about 1SG King, including a touching remembrance in The New York Times on January 1, 2007 (that was written by is fiance, Dana Canedy, an editor there), and articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Mobile, Alabama Press-Register, both on October 18, 2006. An artcile in The News-Enterprise, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, reported that a movie will be made about 1st Sgt. King, with Denzel Washington in the leading role.

 

 

 


 

 

French Legion of Honor Medal to Stevens and NavarreNavarre at cemenony awarding him the French Legion of Honor

Two veterans of the 761st Tank Battalion have received the French Legion of Honor medal. On April 10, 2007, in a ceremony at the Washington State Capitol, Christopher P. Navarre was awarded the medal signifying appointment to the National Order of the Legion of Honor of France. Navarre ceremony (Click here for a separate news story describing the similar May 8, 2006, award to Johnnie Stevens.) In his comments at the ceremony, Mr. Navarre said, "I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on January 15, 1920, as a second class citizen," and he recounted how he and his fellows failed to receive recognition at the time of their accomplishments. There were actually two presentations. Navarre ceremonyMr. Frederic Desagneaux (Consul General of France in San Francisco) presented him with the French Legion of Honor medal. In addition, Matt Hinkle (Ft Lewis) and Colonel Halusz presented him with the U.S. Army Freedom Team Salute.

Navarre ceremonyOne of the regular army's youngest First Sergeant’s in 1943, Chrisotpher Navarre was required to accept a reduction in rank to private to transfer from an unarmed ambulance company of the 429th medical ambulance battalion to join the 761st Tank Battalion in armed combat (as there was no vacancy for a First Sergeant in a black combat unit.) He remained on the front line as a tank gunner until the end of the war. In 1997, then retired Chief Warrant Officer Chistopher Navarre, Sr, received the Silver Star for actions in Task Force Rhine (in March of 1945). Navarre ceremonyQuoting the 761st Newsletter of December, 2005,First Sergeant Navarre "Before retiring from the United States Army in 1963, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher P. Navarre served in a number of different units, including the 116th Combat Engineers in Korea and the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan, but he never really left the 761st Tank Battalion behind. Over the years he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the veterans of the 761st (and for that matter, all veterans) are remembered and that their sacrifices are acknowledged. He has been responsible for a special display at the Fort Lewis Military Museum in Washington." Mr. Navarre entered the Army in 1940 at the age of 23, prior to Pearl Harbor, Navarre Resolutionunder segregated conditions and was first assigned to the 25th infantry regiment at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, a unit that was composed of white officers, Native American Indian scouts and all black enlisted men.

Click here for a special report on the Johnnie Stevens medal award by Joe Wilson, Jr.

Stevens receives French Legion of HonorMonday, May 8, 2006, on the 61st anniversary of V-E Day, a French Legion of Honor medal was presented by Francois Delattre, the Consul General of France, during a ceremony at the French Consulate in New York City to the 761st Tank Battalion's Staff Sgt. Johnnie Stevens, Jr., of Carteret, New Jersey, and several additional recipients. The National Order of the Legion of Honor, was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802, as the most senior Order in France (starting with the reign of Louis Philippe, the Legion of Honor became the sole French national order, although a second national order, the National Order of Merit, was instituted in 1963 as a compliment.) A National Museum of the Legion of Honor and the Orders of Chivalry was founded in the Palace of the Grand Chancellery in 1925. Appointment to the Legion is considered a great honour recognizing eminent service to the Republic of France. The medal is an enameled star of five rays surmounted on a wreath of leaves, a gold medallion in the center having a set of crossed tricolore, surrounded by the Legion's motto Honneur et patrie (Honour and Fatherland) and its foundation date in a blue enamel ring.

S. Sgt. Johnnie StevensAs shown by his certificate (click the certificate image, to the left, to see an enlarged version in a new window) the award designates Johnnie Stevens a Chevalier (or Knight) of the Legion of Honor. The French government established criteria for a selection process allowing the French Legion of Honor Medal to be be presented to U.S. Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard veterans participating in one of the four major campaigns in the liberation of France (Normandy, Southern France, Northern France and the Ardennes) during World War II. Ten French consulates in the U.S. are involved in distribution of the awards, and the French government asked the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs for assistance in identifying qualified US veterans for consideration in awarding the Legion of Honor Medal.

French Legion of Honor Medal SSGT Stevens was one of the first recipients under this recent award designation. Eligible veterans must have written documentation (normally a copy of their military separation order, DD - 214, and other official orders) verifying their military history during combat, and any previous military awards such as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, etc. indicating meritorious actions during combat operations. Copies of these documents should be forwarded with the request for consideration for the French Legion of Honor to the Defense Attache, Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007. The French medals are approved by the Legion of Honor Committee in Paris, France after appropriate review. Approximately 100 French Legion of Honor medals will be awarded each year in the United States at the home of each veteran or at a public ceremony during a patriotic holiday event. Arrangements will be made after the awardees have been notified. Additional information can be provided by the French Defense Attache at (202) 944 6502 or FAX (202) 944 6538, and by Robert F. Elliott, VHA Liaison Officer, Policy, Planning, and Preparedness, (202) 273 - 9559. Further information about the May 8th award ceremony for SSGT Stevens may be obtained from the Consulate General of France in New York, 934 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10021, (212) 606-3600.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Fort Hood Memorial

FtHoodMem1On November 10, 2005, a memorial to the 761st Tank Battallion was dedicated at Ft. Hood, Texas. The 761st, the first African-American armored unit to engage in combat in World War II, was formed in 1942 and trained against Tank Destroyer Forces at Fort Hood beginning in September 1943. Photos provided by Ivan Harrison, Jr., are in an album in the Gallery. FtHoodMem2The memorial includes four monoliths, each with information on both sides about the history of the 761st. The information on the monoliths includes a map showing their path through Europe, Ruben Rivers's picture and citation, the awards earned, major combat engagements, the troop composition, a list of units the 761st supported, the Presidential Unit Citation and one with a wreath near the top listing the names of those that died during combat. The stone supporting the statue of the kneeling tanker with the binoculars in his hand has an image on each of its four sides. The monoliths were made in Killeen, the block supporting the statue was made in Waco, Texas, and the statue was made in Italy of stone from the same quarry that Michelangelo used for his statues.

 

 

 


 

 

761st Models

Don Haney of the Minnesota Military Figure Society has been working on projects based on the 761st Tank Battalion. His recently completed Men of the 761st model figure project was entered in a local Armor Modeling and Preservation Society (AMPS) competition on May 21st, 2011, where it earned a gold medal. The figures are 1/35 scale resin castings and are painted in acrylics. Don is currently working on a 1/35 scale M4A3 76(W) Sherman tank. There have been various inquiries from model builders interested in the 761st Tank Battalion. Don says, " I welcome any questions or comments you may have about the project. If interested in how this project was accomplished, you can read my build log on the Armorama discussion forum" (click here).

Don Haney Don Haney  

September 9, 2013, update:  Donald has "completed 761st Sherman that I was working on ... back in April but I still have plans for a scenic base."

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2007: with regret we note that on this date Johnnie Stevens passed away (see Taps page.)

French Legion of Honor Presented to Johnnie Stevens, Jr.
By Joe Wilson, Jr.

See Personal Messages to Johnnie Stevens, below

Monday May 8, 2006, the 61st anniversary of victory in Europe, Francois Delattre, the Consul General of France, presented France's highest distinction, the coveted Legion of Honor, to nine American World War II Veterans for their critical role in liberating France. The investiture took place at the French Consulate Building, 934 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY.

This photograph of Sgt. Johnnie Stevens, Jr., was taken at Camp Hood, Texas, in 1942

The recipients were as follows: Jerome Baker (357th Inf. Reg.); Joseph Behhler (320th Inf. Reg.); Edward Dawes (52nd QM); John Di Monte (30th Inf. Reg.); John Fanotto (55th QM); Robert Langevin (USN); Bertram Linder (12th Inf. Reg.); Anthony Santoro (47th AIB) and Johnnie Stevens, Jr. (761st Tank Bn.).

Johnnie proudly received this award despite his battle with advanced cancer. It took uncommon strength, endurance, and courage on his part to be present. Sitting for hours was excruciatingly uncomfortable and dangerous. There were very few dry eyes in the room as France's Consul General presented him with this honor.

In a heartfelt speech, Consul General Francois Delattre imparted the following words:

Monsieur le sénateur, Messieurs les Conseillers à l’Assemblée des Français de l’Etranger, Monsieur le Président de la Fédération des Anciens Combattants Français, Mr. Le Président Bruce Boeglin, Chers amis anciens combattants, [Mister Senator, Advisers with the Parliament of France from abroad, Mr. President of the Federation of French Ex-serviceman, Mr. President Bruce Boeglin, dear friends ex-serviceman and] dear American veterans and friends,

C’est un grand honneur pour moi –une vraie émotion aussi, vous le savez- de vous accueillir ce soir au Consulat général de France. [It is a great honor for me - a true emotion also, you know - to accomodate you this evening at the Consulate-General of France.]

Francois Delattre, Consul General of France in New York City

En ce 8 mai, qui célèbre la victoire alliée sur les nazis, nous sommes réunis en effet pour entretenir la flamme sacrée du souvenir et de la mémoire. [On this 8 May, when we celebrate the allied victory over the Nazis, let us be reunited indeed to maintain the flame of the memory and the memory.]

Souvenir de ces combats, auxquels les forces françaises et la Résistance ont pris toute leur part, pour la défense de la patrie, pour la défense aussi de nos valeurs. [To remember the combat, wherein French forces and Resistance took their share, for the defense of the fatherland, for the defense also of our values.]

Mémoire de ceux qui ont payé ce combat de leur vie : nous leur devons, et nous vous devons, d’être aujourd’hui ce que nous sommes, et d’abord de vivre libres. [Remembering those paying for this combat with their lives: let us, as we must, and we owe to you, be what we are today, and primarily living free.]

Rendre hommage aux anciens combattants, c’est pour moi le premier devoir d’un serviteur de l‘Etat et de la Nation. En rendant cet hommage, nous pensons aussi à ceux qui agissent aujourd’hui pour la paix sur les différents théâtres d’opérations de part le monde, et nous leur exprimons notre soutien. [Paying homage to ex-serviceman, for me the best servants of the State and Nation. While giving this homage, we also think of those acting today for peace in the various theatres of operations of the world, and let us express our support.]

May I switch to English to extend a warm welcome to the American veterans who are with us tonight. Your presence honors us all.

As we are celebrating today the sixty-first anniversary of our common victory on tyranny, I would like to pay tribute to you and to all the American veterans who were critical in liberating France and Europe. The French will never forget what they did, what you did, to restore our freedom.

js7Today we also remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many of your comrades. Many rest in French soil and all will rest forever in our hearts. In the soul and the mind of each French citizen, young and old alike, there is this profound and eternal gratitude toward our American friends.

Johnnie Stevens, Jr., Anthony Santoro, and John Fanotto, listening to Francois Delattre read the citation for Johnnie Stevens

As a natural consequence, whenever the essential is at stake, France and the United States have always stood shoulder to shoulder to defend and promote their shared values.

It is true today as our two countries are each other’s best allies in the fight against terrorism. To take just one example, American and French Special Forces are side by side in the mountains of Afghanistan to track down Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda supporters.

In the same vein, our two countries face together the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. France and the United States have the same position on Iran and the nuclear issue, based on the shared view that Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear weapons’ state. As you know, we are now at a critical stage of intensive consultations within the United Nations Security Council on this difficult issue.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today we are paying a special tribute to nine American heroes, who more than sixty years ago risked their young lives for the freedom of France and Europe. I would like to extend a warm welcome to their families and friends, who have come from various places to show their admiration and gratitude.

js16These nine American veterans of the Second World War have been nominated to the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac.

Fellow Legion of Honor recipient Jerome Baker greets Johnnie Stevens, Jr.

The French Legion of Honor was established to reward outstanding services rendered to France, on the basis of personal merit. Since its creation by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor has been France’s highest distinction and one of the most coveted distinctions in the world.

Before proceeding with the official part of the ceremony, I would like to give the floor to Guy Wildenstein, President of the American Society of the French Legion of Honor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, now, our national anthems.

I would like now to personally address each of the nine American veterans we are honouring tonight before proceeding, on behalf of the President of the Republic, with the presentation of the insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Jerome BAKER

You served in the anti-tank company belonging to the 357th infantry regiment.

 

 

You took part in the landing in Normandy on D-Day. Then with your unit, you went to the North of France and later Alsace-Lorraine where you participated in the siege of Metz from September 14th to November 19th, 1944.

Jerome Baker awaiting presentation of his Legion of Honor

 

At the end of December 1944, you left the Siegfried line to take part in the battle of the Bulge until the end of January 1945.

Finally, from January 1945 to march 1945, you participated in The Rhineland campaign.

In recognition of your bravery, you received the prestigious bronze star medal.

Joseph BIEHLER

You served as a corporal in the 320th infantry regiment. Your unit was in the Normandy campaign from the start, landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6th 1944. You took part in the offensive action southwest of St-Lo.

You also participated in the campaign in the North of France. In August 1944, your division secured Mortain-Avranches and rescued the 30th division “Lost Battalion”. Then racing across France through Orleans in September, in the start of the Rhineland campaign, your unit captured Nancy and secured Chambrey, then drove on to the German border in October.

Johnnie Stevens, Jr., and E.G. McConnell, veterans of the 761st Tank Battalion

You also participated in the battle of the Bulge and were there when Bastogne was relieved on December 25th-26th, 1944. For meritorious service, you received the good conduct medal.

Edward DAWES

You served as a truck driver in the 52nd quartermaster truck battalion. Your unit was specialized in amphibious invasions and river crossings.

You enlisted in 1942 and in February 1943 you took part in the Tunisia campaign. Then, with your battalion, you made an amphibious landing in Sicily on July 10th, 1943.

Finally, in August 15, 1944, you participated in the invasion of Southern France between Toulon and Cannes.

For meritorious service, you received the good conduct medal.

js11John DI MONTE

You served as a platoon sergeant in the 30th infantry regiment. With your unit, you took part in the landings in the South of France on August 15th, 1944 in Marseilles.

Johnnie Stevens, Jr., Anthony Santoro, and John Fanotto

Subsequently you went north and were wounded in Strasbourg on October 3rd, 1944. You were the only surviving member of the platoon.

For meritorious service, you received the Purple Heart medal.

John FANOTTO

You served as a corporal in the 55th quartermaster base depot. Your unit, which was in charge of supplies and gasoline, landed at Utah beach, then after the bombing of St. Lo, moved on to liberate towns between Avranches and St Lo. For you, the campaign ended in Reims, at the largest army supply depot, where you remained one year.

Your duties also included interrogating prisoners of war and constructing POW enclosures.

For meritorious service, you were awarded the good conduct medal and the victory medal.

js2Robert LANGEVIN

You enlisted in the US Navy, at the age of 20, on October 29th, 1942.

John Walsh (President of the 35th infantry Division Association and a holder of the Legion of Honor), Joe Wilson and E.G. McConnell

You trained as a machinist’s mate on the USN TR3, which was a salvage and rescue ship.

On D-Day, the ATR3 was among the first ships to come into the range of the German artillery guns on the cliffs of Normandy.

With your unit, you were responsible for towing disabled landing craft off the beach all day long. You also pulled disabled destroyers and gunboats out of the Channel. This action provided a clear, unobstructed approach for the hundreds of landing rafts, infantry troops, trucks, jeeps, ammunition artillery guns, food tents, medical supplies and medical personnel.

After June 25th, the ATR.3 was stationed in the port of Cherbourg from where you rescued the crew of the Leopoldville, a Belgian troop ship carrying hundreds of American infantrymen, which was torpedoed five miles off the coast of Cherbourg.

For meritous service, you received the good conduct medal, a letter of commendation and the victory medal.

js10Bertram LINDER

You were a combat infantry officer in “E” company belonging to the 12th infantry regiment. With your unit, you landed at Utah beach on D.Day where you were wounded. You refused evacuation in order to assist the beach commander. You fought at Sainte-Mere l’Eglise and Saint-Lo and took part in the liberation of Cherbourg.

Presentation of the Legion of Honor to Staff Sgt. Johnnie Stevens, Jr., of the 761st Tank Battalion

Your regiment then fought its way to Paris where, as you could speak French, you served as liaison with the French 2nd armoured division commanded by General Leclerc. In recognition of your bravery, your heroic achievement and your exemplar leadership, you received the prestigious American medals: the “Purple Heart” and the “Bronze Star”.

Anthony SANTORO

You served in the 47th armoured infantry battalion.

With your unit, you landed at Utah beach on June 10th, 1944 and then took part in the liberation of Saint-Lo.

In recognition of your bravery, and for meritorious service, you were awarded the good conduct medal and the victory medal.

js14

 

Legion of Honor recipient Johnnie Stevens, Jr., beside his wife, Evelyn, with their family and friends at the ceremony in the French Consulate


Photo by Christina S. DeHaven, New York University

 

Johnnie STEVENS

You served as a staff Sergeant in the 761st tank battalion, which was the sole armoured unit composed of African-Americans deployed in Europe.

With your unit, you took part in battles in Northern France and the Ardennes. You were wounded in France on November 11, 1944.

You belonged to a battalion which received a presidential citation for extraordinary heroism. I quote part of the citation:

“The 761st tank battalion distinguished itself by extraordinary gallantry, courage, professionalism and high esprit de corps displayed in the accomplishment of unusually difficult and hazardous operations in the European theatre of operations. During 183 days in combat, elements of the 761st were responsible for inflicting thousands of enemy casualties and for capturing, destroying, or aiding in the liberation of more than 30 major towns. This was accomplished while enduring an overall casualty rate approaching 50 percent”.

Mr. Stevens, you personally received the prestigious American medals: the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.


PersonalMessages to Johnnie Stevens
(messages can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

hanksTo Johnnie Stevens
Dear Mr. Stevens,
Congratulations on being awarded France’s highest military honor for your service in the famed Black Panthers Tanker Battalion. You have not only helped to liberate half the world long ago, you leave an inspiration for centuries to come.
God bless you,
Tom Hanks

 

 

 

 


Dear Mr Stevens,
Congratulations on your award. I am glad to see our black veterans get their just due. I remember my father & fellow Staff Sgt. (Jack Sr) telling me stories of how you fought together for 183 straight days under Patton. People forget that if it wasn't for people such as yourself & other unsung heroes that we would not be enjoying our lives as we now know it.
Best Wishes,
Son of a Tanker
Jack Gilbert

 


 

Dear Mr Stevens:
As a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, I salute you and thank you with all my heart for being one of the first to liberate Nazi concentration camps with your heroic 761st Tank Battalion at the end of World War II. When your time comes, you will sit on the right side of God!
Respectfully,
John G. Stoessinger Ph.D.

 


 

Mr. Stevens:
My friend Joe Wilson told me you are going to receive France's Legion of Honor medal soon, Congratulations! Also please accept my sincerest 'Thank You' for all you have done for this great nation. The accomplishments of the 761st Tank Battalion were amazing! My father was a Combat Engineer in the ETO. We are proud of you sir!
Bob Martin, SGT US Army M.P.'s 75-78.

 


 

 Johnnie -- You are one of my heroes. God bless you.
Charles W. "Chuck" Sasser, author Patton's Panthers.

 


 November 11, 2006

Sixty one years ago in a German village named Leuchtenberg, WWII was winding down at a fast pace. A nine year old Hitler Youth kid, named Bruno Ehlich, was an ammunition carrier on a German anti-tank gun positioned in the woods just outside this village. Their orders from the SS soldiers were to fire on any oncoming American tanks hoping to slow down their advance. An American Sherman tank rumbled up into view and Bruno's crew fired on this tank but caused no damage. Return fire from the tank wiped out the German crew, either killed or wounded. Bruno, wounded and scared, ran to the castle in this village only to find the SS troops gone, now leaving the defense of Leuchtenberg into the hands of these Hitler Youth. Bruno, running from the castle down to the village center, found himself staring up into the huge barrel of the 76 gun on the tank. A black tanker jumped to the ground grabbing Bruno by the neck and demanded to know the location of the German troops or where they were hiding. Bruno revealed a secret underground passage and shortly the village was in American hands and little nine year old Bruno found himself a prisoner of this black tanker.
js18 Bruno's story, Born On The Wrong Side Of The Fence, written in 2004, had a chapter missing. Who was this black GI tanker? Was he still alive? Can I find him or his unit? Persistent searching by Vern Schmidt, a combat veteran of the 90th Infantry Division, and a friend of Bruno, found Joe Wilson, Jr., author of a book The 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion in World War II. Joe's father was in this unit and familiar with much of its history through France and Germany and Joe Wilson Jr. became very involved in trying to find the tanker who had grabbed Bruno on that April day back in 1945. Following several phone calls to Mr. Johnnie Stevens, Jr. of Cateret, N.J. and he being a former tanker from the 761st Tk Bn., Mr. Stevens said, "I believe that probably was me". Now, after sixty one years Bruno Ehlich, a retired Sgt. from the Royal Australian Air Force, sent Mr. Johnnie Stevens, Jr. a letter of congratulations and thanking him for liberating this little Austrian kid from Hitler's Nazi army. Poor health and continents apart will probably prevent these two gentlemen from meeting each other, but perhaps now Bruno can realize his long search is complete. Our congratulations to Mr. Johnnie Stevens, Jr. on receiving the coveted French National Legion of Honor award for his exemplary service in WWII to the French people. May God Bless Johnnie Stevens, Jr.
Vern Schmidt, 90th I.D. WWII

October 2015 addendum
90th Infantry Division member Vernon Schmidt reports that although he questioned whether 761st tankers came into Leuchtenburg on the 24th of April of 1945, because that was in the 90th ID area and the 90th set up a divisional Command Post at 4:00 pm on the 24th in that little town in Bavaria, several veterans told him that African American tankers were there.  He was recently told by a WWII vet that the 71st ID was just west of Leuchtenburg that day, and he confirmed that the 761st was supporting them.  Vernon's thinking is that a 761st tank that may have gone down a road that led into the 90th area.  As funny side note, one of the men asked a Hitler Youth (Vernon's post-war friend, Bruno Ehlich) where the German soldiers were.  Bruno showed them a hidden passage into the castle and when the tank guys blew the lock off the door to this passage all kinds of people came out, including a lady whose sons were on an anti-tank gun trying to stop the tank.   She had a pistol in her hand and pointed it at the tank like she was going to take it prisoner, since she was mad at the Americans for what they did to her sons on the anti-tank gun.  Vernon has been back there four times staying in a guest house that was then owned by the same lady.

 



An added note: After Action Reports show "A" Co. 357th Reg't., 90th I.D. entering Leuchtenberg on 24 April 1945 and setting up a Divisional Command Post. No doubt Johnnie Stevens and his "Black Panthers" moved on to take the next village.

 

Upon hearing about the 761st this morning (May 16th) on the Tom Joyner Morning Show radio program, I was moved to do a search on the internet to learn more about them. I was amazed to hear that just last week, Mr. Stevens was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. Further reading made me that much more proud of the accomplishments of this tank battalion and Mr. Stevens. Thank God for the accomplishments (as little as they are known and published by mainstream media) of fellow African-Americans to make this nation and the world that much more greater! I am very proud! May God bless you, Mr. Stevens, and your crew. THANKS!
Great job, Joe Wilson. I will be looking to purchase your book on the 761st.
Regards,
Weylan G. Stricklin

 


 

 

Holland

Dear Mr Johnnie Stevens,
I would like to send my best wishes and my congratulations for your LOH award reveived from the French Government.


You deserved this and we are full of respect for what you did for us during your ETO time.
We realize we got freedom in 1944 by liberation of the US soldiers with heavy sacrifices in France and Belgium (Battle of Bulge). We haven't forgotten and will never forget.

Our greetings from Holland through a digital flowercard,
Pierre Ackermans
Maastricht. The Netherlands.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Dear Mr Steven’s or may I call you Johnnie,
I would like to send our congratulations all the way from Belfast, Northern Ireland on your up and coming date in New York which we hear you will be given the Legion of Honor Award.

We would like to congratulate you on such a wonderful thing and hope that you will enjoy your day to the full.


I have been doing some research into African American troops in Northern Ireland and came into contact with Joe Wilson Jr. through the internet who has told me of your award. I know he thinks highly of you and I was so honoured when he shared the news with us that I couldn’t wait to send you a little note.
Although we are on the other side of the world I must say that we do still feel so much appreciation for the freedom you all fought to provide for us the younger generation.

I myself am 33 years of age and have found a new perspective on my freedom through my research. I cherish every day the fact that I can walk tall and make my own choices, this I owe to men like you.
Thank you for all the sacrifices and hardships you had to endure and I make a solemn promise to you that I personally will strive to make use of the freedom you so proudly fought for me.

From our wee town of Belfast, Northern Ireland, have a very special day on May 8th. We will all be wishing you the very best.
From your younger generation in Northern Ireland.
God bless you,
Karen & Raymond Nixon

 


Hi, Johnnie,
I called you one year ago and we spoke for some 40 minutes about your time in the war. I am teaching African Canadian Studies. I want my students to know about the black experience in the Nazi Era. I teach about you and Max Eisen, a prisoner you liberated at Ebensee, Austria, as part of that experience. Your story is so personal that it really gets to the students. I want them to understand what Thank You really means and your participation in WWII really helps them understand what Thank You is supposed to feel like. I/we are truly grateful that you and your mates put your lives on the line for our freedom here in North America. Please know that you will always be honored north of the boarder in at least one history class. And if I have anything to do with it, many more teacahers and students will learn of your contributions.
I feel privileged to have spoken to you that one time on the phone. I would love to have met you in person to shake your hand and stare into your eyes to see the soul of a hero.
I wish you peace and remain forever thankful for men like you.
Wayne MacIntyre
Social Studies Dept Head
J. L. Ilsley High School
Halifax, NS, Canada

 

 


"Fighting for a country that did not believe in them, they used their courage, pride, and honor to prove they were the best. They did not ask for respect, they commanded it. They changed the world around them for the better. They were the 761st Tank Battalion, an all African-American WWII unit who changed the military, their homeland, and the world forever…they were the Black Panthers, the greatest Tank Battalion ever. It upsets me greatly that as a former history student I was never taught about the heroic African-American efforts during WWII and to this day, it remains a story untold to the general public or one taught in the various school systems -- this film will change that immediately. This special moment in history provides a defining moment of the honor, courage, and sacrifice made by the African-American 761st Tank Battalion known as The Black Panthers. This is such an important story that needs to be told worldwide, because it illustrates that a man’s color of skin, where he comes from, and how much money he makes means absolutely nothing—the real judgement comes from a man’s character. A man is judged by WHO he is, not WHAT he is. This film serves as inspiration to the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, and everyone in between. It shows that those who do not make excuses for obstacles they must overcome and instead work on overcoming the obstacles will be rewarded. Their accomplishments are irrefutable, just look at the 11 Silver Stars, at least 60 Bronze Stars, four battlefield commissions and the highest award that there is—the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just recently, Johnnie Stevens was awarded France’s highest medal, the Legion of Honor. Their character should provide a standard for others to strive to live their life by—they are true heroes by ever measure of the word and if you are lucky enough to meet one of them, try to absorb every ounce of greatness in them...."
Michael Matthew Barker (Silver Screen Studios)