In Brothers in Arms, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton rescue the remarkable story of the 761st from undeserved obscurity. Abdul-Jabbar, a former NBA superstar, has written several popular books, including Giant Steps and Black Profiles in Courage. Here he offers a carefully researched and engrossing account that paints the individual dramas of the tank men against the backdrop of the war.
The Washington Post
The six-time NBA most valuable player teams up with Mississippi author Walton, who coauthored Al Sharpton's Go and Tell Pharaoh. Their chronicle of Patton's Third Army stalwarts takes in the all-black tank battalion's 183 days on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge, with casualty rates of almost 50%, an almost impossible supply situation, sometimes inept leadership and chronic racism that inflected nearly every move they made. The third-person narrative reflects the intimacy Jabbar has with Leonard "Smitty" Smith, the loader on a 761st tank crew, with episodes and anecdotes that feel immediate and a wealth of visual and tactical detail about what it was like to work, and often live, on the inside of a tank. The authors widen the scope repeatedly to give a nuanced account of the 676 enlisted men and 36 officers of the battalion and its place in the Third Army. While it will leave aficionados satisfied, this is military history that will prove compelling to anyone with an interest in black men's experience during the 20th century. The group's liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp is covered in a few pages, but its heroism is on display throughout. 6-city author tour. Jabbar's agent: Frank Weimann at The Literary Group; Walton's agent: Sloan Harris at ICM. (On sale May 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Moved to tell a story he thought should be widely known, basketball great Abdul-Jabbar adds this variation on his Black Profiles in Courage (1996) to his writing r sum . He and coauthor Walton follow a different band of brothers during World War II-the heroic black 761st Tank Battalion that formed five companies in U.S. Gen. George Patton's Third Army. Told with broad social commentary and poignant personal focus on three soldiers, this revealing and insightful story tells of blacks' struggle even to fight in the war, battling the racism of segregated America and its armed forces at home and abroad. Abdul-Jabbar details the 761st's battlefield exploits as the nation's first black armored unit in combat on foreign soil and one of the first black units to fight side by side with white U.S. troops. Courage, honor, and integrity form Abdul-Jabbar and Walton's refrain as they move through the context and conditions of the 761st's service in liberating several Nazi concentration camps in 1945. This engaging read will enlighten many and nicely complement Joe Wilson Jr.'s illustrated history, The 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion in World War II, and Kathryn Browne Pfeifer's 761st Tank Battalion, as well as broader works on blacks bearing arms in America's wars. Highly recommended for African American, military, and U.S. history collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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 towardthe 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. Agent: Frank Weimann/The Literary Group
“A carefully researched and engrossing account that paints the individual dramas of the tankmen against the backdrop of the war . . . A fine tribute to these unsung heroes and a valuable addition to the literature on African American service in World War II.” —Washington Post Book World
More than a combat story or a segregated version of Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers. It's also the story of how black soldiers had to fight (literally and figuratively) for the right to fight the Germans.” —USA Today
“A wholly different perspective on the ‘greatest generation.’” —People (Critic's Choice)
“A brilliant and moving narrative that through its imagery helps the reader appreciate the hardness of battle.” —Charlotte Observer
“A slam dunk . . . Well written, well researched and an excellent read . . . Abdul-Jabbar does an incredible job of weaving [the personal stories] into the context of the war as it unfolded.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A touching profile of men who fought overt and subtle racism for the chance to prove their mettle, and a poignant reminder of the unreasonable prejudices of that era that almost kept them on the sidelines.” —Sacramento Bee
“An inspirational, moving account of courage and comradeship on the part of exceptional men.” —Military History
“Not only an exciting, informative military history for the general reader but also a revealing and moving record of racism in America’s past.” —Houston Chronicle