Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines all
have their stories. Some
of the stories are beyond belief.
the story I heard about a member of the Triple Nickel, the
555th Black Paratroopers in World War II. They were
the first Black Paratrooper Battalion in the history of
the Armed Forces. The way
the story was told, a member of the
battalion jumped from an aircraft in Alabama and landed an
hour or so later in Georgia. (How about that?) It is told, that one day the battalion was going up for a practice jump. As
they were walking toward the aircraft, trooper Ranson Holt seen
an object on the ground, it was a pocket knife. He picked it up
and put it in his pocket.
boarded the plane and went up. When
he jumped from the aircraft, a wind-draft pulled him
toward the tail section of the airplane. As a result, a few of the
lines on his parachute became snagged in the tail-wing of the plane.
The pilot and crew members became aware of the
situation. They knew eventually they would have to land the
plane. They knew it would be sure death for the trooper if
he could not free himself. They decided that they would fly
around as long as the fuel lasted to give him the opportunity
to try to free himself.
The way the story was told, he managed to retrieve the pocket knife that he found and cut the
lines that were snagged in the tail-wing. As far-fetched as this story may sound, it is true. Trooper Holt jumped
out the plane in Alabama and landed
safely in Georgia.
Then, there is the story told by Sargent Frank Barbee, a former member of the same Paratrooper
Battalion. Sargent Barbee gave up his stripes to volunteer for
duty in the first and only integrated company of soldiers who
saw action during the War. In order to volunteer, he had to
give up his rank because the Black Soldiers could not out rank
the White members of the company.
Sgt. Barbee recalled his
first experience in combat. According to him, when the bullets began
to fly, he became so afraid that he pulled his steel helmet all
the way down to cover his feet. He acknowledged that his claim was impossible,
but his point was to emphasize the level of
fear he experienced.
Sargent Barbee passed away last year at
the age of 90. His story is captured in the documentary titled,
“African Americans In World War II: A Legacy Of Patriotism and
Book “Of Thee I Sing” is – the
compilation of historical facts that were brought together as a
profile of the history. The profile was established to provide a
framework for the creation of multiple exhibits about the history
to acquaint the public with the subject. The Book recognizes the trailblazers: The Buffalo
Soldiers, The Tuskegee Airmen, the 761st Black Panther
Tank Battalion, the 555th Black Paratroopers Battalion the
Red Ball Express and the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, the
Black women who served in England and France during World
War II. There are chapters in the book dedicated to the Native
American, Hispanic American and Asian American contributions. The publication introduces
the reader to the first Black Flag Officers in the different branches
of the Armed Forces; Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis Sr., USA, General Benjamin
O. Davis, Jr. USAF, Admiral Samuel Gravely, USN, Lt. General
Frank Peterson, USMC and Brigadier General Hazel Johnson
USA, the first Black female General in the history of the
United States Armed Forces. The Book contains a chronology of events involving Black
Military participation from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam
Conflict. Also included is a listing of Minority Medal of Honor Recipients.