African Americans in World War II
Courtesy of the National Archives.
General George S. Patton, nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts," was one of the most famous American generals of WWII. Like many of his fellow Army commanders, he was ambivalent about the complete integration of black soldiers into the military and sometimes expressed doubts about the suitability of black troops. Nevertheless, in 1944 Patton requested command of the first black tank unit, the 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion. With characteristic flair, Patton told his men before going into combat: "I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches." Above all, the general respected toughness and courage. In this picture, taken on 13 October 1944, Patton pins the Silver Star on Private Ernest A. Jenkins of New York City for conspicuous gallantry during the liberation of Chateaudun, France.