In "Splitting Hairs," we learn that Robert Davis served with the 761st Armored Division. The writers made a great choice in allying Robert with the 761st... I've been reading about the "Black Panthers" and they played a prominent part in the war.
The 761st was first based at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, later at Camp Hood, Texas (Hey, I was born there!). They shipped out of New York on August 27, 1944 and arrived in Liverpool on September 8th.
The Black Panthers landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy on October 10th and served in combat for the first time on November 7th during an assault on the Nazi-occupied towns of Moyenvic and Vic-sur-Seille. General Patton made these remarks when he reviewed the battalion:
Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of b*tches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down!
On December 14th, the Black Panthers entered Germany. In fact, they were the very first American soldiers to set foot on German soil! They were assigned at that time to Patton's Third Army and played a critical role in supporting the 17th Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge that winter. They moved swiftly across Europe during the spring of 1945. The 761st were among the troops to liberate the camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. In May, they moved into Austria in advance of the 71st Infantry Division, and met up with the First Ukranian Army on May 6th at the Enns River near Steyr. They were, at that point, "the easternmost unit of all the Western Allied forces in Europe."
From June 18th to July 30th, the 761st occupied five German cities in the Donauworth area. On August 2nd, they moved to the city of Teisendorf, Bavaria.
The men of the 761st Tank Battalion spent 183 continuous days in combat. According to a 1978 citation by President Carter, they "were responsible for inflicting thousands of enemy casualties and for capturing, destroying, or aiding in the liberation of more than 30 major towns, 4 airfields, 3 ammunition supply dumps, 461 wheeled vehicles, 34 tanks, 113 large guns, 1 radio station, and numerous individual and crew-served weapons. This was accomplished while enduring an overall casualty rate approaching 50 percent, the loss of 71 tanks, and in spite of extremely adverse weather conditions, very difficult terrain not suited to armor operations, heavily fortified enemy positions and units, and extreme shortages of replacement personnel and equipment."
You can read some fascinating articles and interviews at the home page for "Robert's" Battalion:
Morgan Freeman and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are co-producing a movie about the 761st based on a book KAJ helped write titled Brothers in Arms. It's supposed to be released by DreamWorks this summer!
There are all kinds of books about the 761st: