Monday, February 07, 2011

761st Tank Battalion Customs

The 761st Tank Battalion, was a United States Army tank battalion during World War II. The unit was one of three battalions serving from the U.S. 5th Tank Group. The unit was also made up of black soldiers (Buffalo Soldiers), who by Federal law were not permitted to serve alongside white troops. (The US Army did not officially desegregate until after World War II). They were known as the “Black Panthers” after their unit's distinctive insignia. Their motto was “Come out fighting”.

The most famous member of the 761st was Second Lieutenant Jack Robinson. During the 761st's training, a white bus driver told Robinson to move to the back of the bus, and Robinson refused. Although his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Paul L. Bates, refused to consider the court-martial charges put forward by the arresting Military Policemen, the base commander transferred Robinson to the 758th Tank Battalion, whose commander was willing to sign the insubordination court-martial consent. Robinson would eventually be acquitted of all charges, though he never saw combat. He became famous a few months later when he was instrumental in the desegregation of professional baseball.

Tank commander Sergeant Warren G. H. Crecy came to the aid of his men on 10 November 1944, and fought through enemy positions until his tank was destroyed. He eliminated an enemy position that had knocked out his tank by commandeering a vehicle armed with only a .30-caliber machine gun. He then eliminated the German forward observers who were directing artillery fire on the US positions.

After manning a replacement tank, Crecy's new vehicle lost traction in heavy mud and he was forced to exit the tank under fierce machine gun, antitank, and artillery fire to free the tracks. When attacked by German infantry, he had to abandon his salvage efforts to man the .50-caliber machine gun, effectively holding off the advancing enemy, then forcing them to withdraw.

Described as a baby-faced, "quiet, easy-going, meek-looking fellow", Crecy had destroyed an antitank position and a number of German machine gun positions armed only with a machine gun and without regard for his personal safety, under heavy fire. His men reportedly experienced difficulty getting the machine gun away from him after the action.

Crecy was nominated for the Medal of Honor and received a battlefield commission, eventually retiring with the rank of Major. His heroic actions earned him the title "Baddest Man in the 761st" from his comrades.

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