Rivers, Ruben, born 31-10-1918, in Tecumseh, Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, to Willie and Lillian Rivers in 1921 in Tecumseh, Oklahoma. He grew up in nearby Hotulka, Oklahoma, where he and his eleven brothers and sisters worked on the family farm. In 1930, the family moved to Earlsboro. After graduating from high school, Rivers worked on the railroad for a time.
He entered the US Army in 1942, training with a tank battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, and shipped out shortly after D-Day, where he was attached to the 26th Infantry Division in General Patton’s Third Army. With the United States’ entry into World War II on behalf of the Allied cause, Rivers and two of his brothers joined the armed forces. Ruben would be the only one assigned to a combat unit however, training with the 761st Tank Battalion at Camp Hood in Texas. The 761st Tank Battalion, nicknamed the “Black Panthers”, under command of Lieutenant Colonel. Paul Leverne Bates was eventually assigned to General George S. Patton’s U.S. Third Army. Despite Patton’s racism, the battalion was implemented and performed with distinction in a number of important battles, although Patton did not officially recognized their accomplishments.
Paul Bates died 21-02-1995, aged 86, in Dunedin, Pinellas County, Florida and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on 01-03-1995 with full military honors. His wife, Taffy Bates, died in Florida, Sunday, 19-10-2014. She was 96. Born Helen Rosen in Queens, New York, “Taffy,” a name she fashioned for herself, volunteered for duty as an Army nurse during World War II
Soldiers from the 761st Tank Battalion’s Dog Company check equipment before leaving England for combat in France in the fall of 1944.
Death and burial ground of Rivers, Ruben.
He distinguished himself as a Tank Platoon Sergeant, with heroic actions against the Germans between Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, 1944, but was killed in action on November 19, age 24.. His commanding officer recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but this was denied, since African- Americans were not considered for this award during that time. However, he was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. But, more than 60 years later, the Medal of Honor was awarded to him posthumously. The citation reads, in part: “Awarded for extra-ordinary heroism in action during the November 1944 campaign approaching Guebling, France. Although severely wounded in the leg. He refused medical treatment and evacuation, took command of another tank, and advanced with his company in Guebling the next day. Repeatedly refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his tank’s fire at enemy positions, and at dawn Company A’s tanks began to advance toward Bougaktroff, but were stopped by enemy fire. Joined by another tank, he opened fire on the enemy tanks covering Company A as men withdrew, while doing so, his tank was hit, killing him and wounding the crew. His fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his unit and exemplify the highest traditions of military service.”
Ruben’s brother Willie with his wife Norma visited the museum honoring the Medal of Honors receivers.
Ruben Rivers is buried at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, Section Row 5 Grave 53.
These six other black soldiers earned the medal of honor: Vernon J. Baker , Waverly Bernard Woodson, , Edward Allen Carter Jr. John Robert Fox Willy F. James Jr. Charles L. Thomas