Reuben Rivers of the 761st

I realized the other day that October is Black History Month. Well, except it isn’t. Black History month was back in February. But it’s Black History Month in Europe. Look it up. Personally, I think black people and black history are important year-round, but society seems to disagree. Why else would they dedicate a month explicitly to it except if they wanted to get it over with quickly? In any event, I’ve apparently started studying a particular piece of black history right around the turn of the month, so maybe it’s…. magic?

Because of racism, it took us ages to discover how good blacks looked in the Army dress uniform. Here's Rivers, highlighting my point.

Because of racism, it took us ages to discover how good blacks looked in the Army dress uniform. Here's Rivers, highlighting my point.

 

 

Anyways, today’s post is about Staff Sergeant Reuben Rivers of the 761st tank battalion. In November of 1944, Reuben found himself in France, commanding an M4 Sherman against Wehrmacht emplacements and armor. An antitank mine wounded Rivers’ leg when his tank drove over it on November 16th. Undeterred, Rivers rejected attempts to pull him from combat and continued his command. By November 19th, the leg had gone from wounded to infected, and yet Rivers still refused treatment.

A Sherman tank crewed by the 761st tank batallion, A Company. Taken November 9th, 1944, near the Seille. I don't think it's Rivers' tank, but it's from the same assignment. I'm pretty sure It's an M4A3 model with 76mm turret. No assault kit, though, since you can see the chassis MG isn't shrouded.

A Sherman tank crewed by the 761st tank batallion, A Company. Taken November 9th, 1944, near the Seille. I don't think it's Rivers' tank, but it's from the same assignment. I'm pretty sure It's an M4A3 model with 76mm turret. No assault kit, though, since you can see the chassis MG isn't shrouded.

 

While leading an armored advance on a town near Bougaltroff, Able company (which Rivers was leading) was engaged by Wehrmacht Jagdtigers. The Jagdtiger was a tank destroyer that featured a chassis mounted 128mm cannon. The cannon fired explosive or armor piercing explosive rounds that weighed in at just under 30 kilograms. All of this was built into a reinforced Tiger II chassis, making the Jagdtiger (when it worked) a fire breathing demon from hell.

The gunner and loader could stand up (relatively) comfortably at their positions, and the rounds were so heavy, the propellant had to be loaded separate from the warhead.

Rivers was ordered to fall back, and responded with “I see them! We’ll fight ‘em!”, he promptly charged the anti-tank position and engaged, giving the rest of A company enough time to pull back without falling under the Jagdtiger’s guns. Luck finally caught up with Rivers, however, and a Jagdtiger targeted his Sherman, prompting him to order full reverse. Too late however, two rounds sheared off the top half of his tank, killing him and injuring the rest of the crew.

Rivers would (very posthumously, 1997) receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, if not for his success against everything but Jagdtigers, then figuring out how to fit his massive goddamn balls into the commander’s hatch. The Citation is as follows:

For extraordinary heroism in action during the 15-19 November 1944, toward Guebling, France. Though severely wounded in the leg, Sergeant Rivers refused medical treatment and evacuation, took command of another tank, and advanced with his company in Guebling the next day. Repeatedly refusing evacuation, Sergeant Rivers continued to direct his tank's fire at enemy positions through the morning of 19 November 1944. At dawn, Company A's tanks began to advance towards Bougaktroff, but were stopped by enemy fire. Sergeant Rivers, joined by another tank, opened fire on the enemy tanks, covering company A as they withdrew. While doing so, Sergeant River's tank was hit, killing him and wounding the crew. Staff Sergeant Rivers' fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his unit and exemplify the highest traditions of military service.”

Grace Rivers accepting her brother's posthumous Medal of Honor, awarded by the actually respectable half of the Clintons.

Grace Rivers accepting her brother's posthumous Medal of Honor, awarded by the actually respectable half of the Clintons.

Grave markers are too modest for some people. "Yeah, here's Rivers. Medal of Honor, beat down racism at home and abroad. Tank commander. The usual." Still, you'll notice none of his neighbors get a rad star at the top.

Grave markers are too modest for some people. "Yeah, here's Rivers. Medal of Honor, beat down racism at home and abroad. Tank commander. The usual." Still, you'll notice none of his neighbors get a rad star at the top.

Thanks to 761st.com for images directly pertaining to Rivers.