The movie “Patton” makes Black soldiers invisible 

I quickly turned off the TV while watching the 1970 movie “Patton,” starring George C. Scott as General George Patton.

I thought it was an insult to Black men who fought in WW II and those who went ashore in the Normandy Invasion, or D-Day, of Europe.

The only Black man in the film was Patton’s valet, played by James Edwards. He held Patton’s pistol belt and made sure his helmet was on straight. His helmet showed all three stars, which indicated he was the commander. 

Other than a brief encounter in the hallway between the two, this sums up the Black male presence in the film.

Except that there was a strong presence of Black soldiers under Patton’s command, but you’d never know it from watching the film.

There is no mention of the 761st Tank Battalion, also known as the “Black Panthers.” The battalion’s motto was “Come Out Fighting.” 

And they did, from its first engagement at the little Belgian town of Morville-les-Vic in November 1944 and through heavy combat right through to the end of the war. The Black Panthers captured Morville-les-Vic on November 7.

The 761st Tank Battalion suffered 156 casualties in November 1944: 24 men killed, 81 wounded, and 44 non-battle losses. The unit also lost 14 tanks; another 20 were damaged in combat. In December, the battalion was rushed to the aid of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne.

As part of the effort to drive the Germans from the vicinity of Bastogne, the battalion fought to capture the municipality of Tillet, less than 15 kilometers west of the town, in early January 1945.

With just eleven tanks, the battalion supported the elements of the 87th Infantry Division and, after two days of combat, took control of the city from the 113th Panzer Brigade, losing nine tanks in the process.

After the Battle of the Bulge, the unit opened the way for the U.S. 4th Armored Division to enter Germany during an action that breached the Siegfried Line

The 761st smashed through dozens of German cities and towns in their rapid advance through the Reich. In the final days of the war in Europe, the 761st was one of the first American units to reach SteyrAustria, at the Enns River, where they met with the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Soviet Red Army

On May 4, 1945, the 761st, along with the 71st Infantry Division, liberated the Gunskirchen concentration camp; the German guards had fled not long before. But only the 71st Infantry is mentioned in the Holocaust Encyclopedia, not the all-Black 761st.

The 761st was deactivated on June 1, 1946 in Germany. 

Writer Logan Nye opined that they were “one of the most effective tank battalions in World War II.” The battalion earned about 300 Purple Hearts and at least one Medal of Honor.

In addition, about 1,700 Black soldiers were part of the D-Day invasion of the beaches in Normandy, including a barrage balloon battalion, something that has always been ignored.

Barrage balloons were large, helium-filled balloons that were tethered to ships or held on the shore and floated hundreds of feet in the sky with mines dangling from them.