BROTHERS IN ARMS by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

BROTHERS IN ARMS

The Courageous Story of WWII’s 761st “Black Panthers”

KIRKUS REVIEW

A spirited account of the storied all-black tank battalion, one of the most highly decorated units in WWII.

Basketball great Abdul-Jabbar (A Season on the Reservation, 2000, etc.) and journalist Walton (Mississippi, 1996) honor what was officially known as the “761st Tank Battalion (Colored),” one of several “floating entities designed to be attached to an Army corps; the corps, in turn, would attach them to whichever of its component divisions most needed their specialized services at a given moment.” Many African-American units trained for combat but did not see it, the training having been a sop to “insure the black community’s support for the war effort”; poorly used and treated—the men assigned to the unit were stranded in a Louisiana forest, dumped there by a troop train miles from their destination—the men of the 761st had to battle prejudice at home before even seeing foreign combat. (Even its white officers referred to them as “Mrs. Roosevelt’s Niggers.”) One high point of this narrative is the resistance to this prejudice on the part of several members of the 761st, including, famously, Lt. Jackie Robinson, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus is rendered here in straightforward, unbowdlerized prose guaranteed to induce the reader’s indignation. There are many other high points as well, as the authors skillfully introduce their subjects to the battlefields of France, where the 761st spearheaded a spectacular drive on the Saar, led by Gen. George S. Patton, that “may have come to be viewed as equal in significance [to] the invasion of Normandy” had not the German counteroffensive at the Battle of the Bulge overshadowed it. Badly bloodied at the Saar, the 761st turned toward the Bulge, helped relieve Bastogne, and earned a Presidential Unit Citation for valor, along with just about every other medal that could be bestowed.

Solid and well written: the authors reveal a little-known aspect of WWII on the home front and abroad.

Pub Date: May 4th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-50338-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2004




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