Friday, June 27, 2008

First to Fight - the Black Tankers of WWII

The 761st Tank Battalion made history as the first all black tank unit to see combat. Like the better-known Tuskegee Airmen, they proved they were as competent as any soldier in the U.S. military. Over the course of 183 days on the front, the 761st helped liberate more than 30 towns under Nazi control. Collectively they were awarded 11 Silver Stars, 70 Bronze Stars, 250 Purple Hearts, and a Medal of Honor. And more than 30 years after coming home, the 761st was finally recognized with the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation.

Through the stories of a select group of surviving veterans, FIRST TO FIGHT examines the history of the battalion--how they came to be; the racism they faced; their battles to be allowed to fight; and courageous service in the European Theater. The program also examines the larger issue of how the U.S. military has evolved from a segregated to an integrated institution.


Part 1


Part 2


The story of blacks fighting for the United States of America in WWII is a saga both glorious and shameful. This moving documentary from THE HISTORY CHANNEL® pays tribute to the valor and sacrifice of African-American soldiers while shedding light on the discrimination and disregard that at times proved more threatening than the rigors of battle.

1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II, and although largely forgotten by history, nearly 2,000 of them stormed the beaches of Normandy. For the first time ever, seven of these forgotten heroes tell their stories. Through dramatic recreations and in-depth interviews, we will discover the African-American contribution to the Normandy Invasion.

On that deadly DISTANT SHORE, only the bullets were color blind. This DVD offers history at its most eye-opening.

Alcan Highway

Part 1

Alcan Highway part 1

Part 2

Alcan Highway part 2

Modern Marvels

Stretching from Dawson Creek in Canada to Alaska, the Alcan Highway is one of the most picturesque roads in North America. But the story of this fifteen hundred mile plus road is one rooted in war and hardship. Built during World War II, the Alcan Highway is one of the major engineering feats of the twentieth century. Over ten thousand American soldiers built the highway, of which almost four thousand were African-American. The African-American soldiers faced the trials and tribulations that the white soldiers faced, but had to contend with the racism and segregation of the era that mandated their isolation and relegated to them inferior tools and supplies. The Alcan Highway is the story of the triumphant effort of these soldiers. The Alcan Highway would be useful for classes on American History, African-American History, Military History, Geography and Science and Technology. It is appropriate for middle school and high school.

Honor Deferred

Honor Deferred part 1

Honor Deferred part 2

HONOR DEFERRED is the story of seven men worthy of the Medal of Honor for their valor during WWII, but who received their medals only recently, after six had already died. More than a million African-Americans served within the army's segregated ranks. Despite their bravery and courage, not one of the 432 Medal of Honor awards went to a black soldier. Was the army racist? Did African-Americans receive appropriate training? The program explores these issues and more in breathtaking recreations as we document the stories of the Congressional Medal of Honor winners. And watch as President Clinton presented the medals to Vernon Baker--the last living recipient--and the proud family members of the other six.

Among the dramatic real-life stories in HONOR DEFERRED are these:

* During fighting in Europe, Lieutenant John Fox found himself completely
surrounded by German forces. He called for U.S. artillery to be fired
directly on his position, dooming himself to death but taking more than
100 German soldiers with him.

* Private George Watson's cargo ship came under unexpected fire by the
Japanese in New Guinea and sank, stranding more than 150 soldiers, many
of whom couldn't swim, in the deep waters. Watson helped carry dozens of
men to safety before he himself drowned from sheer exhaustion.

* Sergeant Edward Carter was shot several times by German soldiers while
crossing hundreds of yards of wide-open land in the Rhineland. Despite
being shot, Carter managed to capture two German soldiers, who he
brought back to his unit, where they provided valuable information that
allowed U.S. forces to advance.

* Lieutenant Charles Thomas's vehicle was hit with artillery fire on a
scouting mission and badly damaged. Thomas, refused to evacuate the area
until he was sure the other vehicles in his unit could return fire. He
was killed, but his efforts saved the lives of many others.

* After performing a valuable scouting mission, Private Willie James was
shot and killed trying to rescue his commander from German sniper fire.

* In France, Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers pressed on for three days on a
leg injured by a land mine and badly infected. He refused orders to
return to an aid station, and died covering the escape of others in his
tank unit in France.

* Vernon Baker is the only black soldier still alive today to receive the
award for service in World War II. After his commander abandoned the
unit, Baker assumed command and refused to fall back. He completed an
impossible mission, and bears sole responsibility for continuing to
engage the enemy.