Richard W. English Papers Document the "Black Panthers" of World War II


Richard W. English

The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the opening of the Richard W. English Papers, which date from 1942 to 1984. Richard Walter English was a decorated school teacher, administrator, and soldier who served in Germany under the 761st Tank Battalion, an all-Black combat unit during World War II. The bulk of his collection highlights his service as a member of the 761st, known as the “Black Panthers” and the first African-American armored unit to enter combat during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. The men of the 761st proved their courage and tenacity during the 183 days of continual fighting.

The 761stTank Battalion was activated on April 1, 1942, at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana, and trained for two years at Camp Hood in Texas. They were deployed to Europe on October 10, 1944, landing on Omaha Beach in France. The 761st was attached to the XII Corps 26th Infantry Division as part of General George S. Patton’s Third Army. The battalion, one of the first American units to meet up with Soviet forces in Austria, also saw action on the front in France, Belgium, and Germany. The Black Panthers captured over 30 towns and liberated several concentration camps.
Richard Walter English was born on June 9, 1909, in El Paso, Texas. In 1926, English completed his high school education at McDonough 35 public high school in New Orleans. He went on to study chemistry at Dillard University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 1930, before began his tenure as a teacher in the Orleans Parish public school system in 1932. He enlisted in the United States Army on October 28, 1942, graduating later in that year from the Army’s engineering school and becoming a member of the 761st Tank Battalion.
In 1947, English received a promotion from Warrant Officer to the rank of Major, a position he held until he retired from the army on April 18, 1950. Over the course of his eight years of service, English accumulated a number of awards and citations, including a Purple Heart medallion, five battle stars, and six other medals for his combat service. Following his release from military duty in 1950, English emerged as a leading educator in New Orleans as both a teacher and principal in the New Orleans public school system. Twenty-eight years after his retirement from the armed forces, English, along with the rest of the 761st Battalion, finally received the Presidential Unit Citation for outstanding performance and displays of courage from President Jimmy Carter after six previous presidents would not acknowledge the battalion and its accomplishments.
Detail of a panoramic photograph of the 761st Tank Battalion, circa 1942.

Detail of a panoramic photograph of the 761st Tank Battalion, circa 1942.

The papers of Richard W. English contains correspondence and ephemera, military records, and photographs related to his service in the 761st Tank Battalion during World War II, his post-war service in Germany (1945-1950), and his work as a teacher and administrator in the public schools of New Orleans, Louisiana (1955-1970).
The archival arrangement and preservation of the Richard W. English papers was completed with the assistance of Lusher Charter School student intern, Nicholas Albert, and funding assistance from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation. For more information about Richard Walter English and his wartime service, the finding aid to his papers can be found in Amistad’s online finding aid database.

Posted by Laura Thomson

(Images from the Richard W. English papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)


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