(1921-November 19, 1944) was a Staff Sergeant
in the 761<sup>st</sup> Tank Battalion
, black tank battalion which served with distinction in the European Theater of Operations
during World War II
. Sgt. Rivers, who was half-Cherokee
, was one of seven African-American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor
, although this official recognition of their heroic actions was not made until 1997.
Rivers was born to Willie and Lillian Rivers in 1921 in Tecumseh, Oklahoma
. He grew up in nearby Hotulka, where, along with his eleven brothers and sisters, he worked on the family farm. After graduating from high school, Rivers worked on the railroad for a time.
World War II service
With the United States' entry into World War II on behalf of the Allied
cause, Rivers and two of his brothers, Robert and Dewey, would offer their services to the military. Ruben would be the only one assigned to a combat unit however, training with the 761<sup>st</sup> Tank Battalion at Camp Hood
in Texas. Nicknamed the “Black Panthers,” they were eventually assigned to General George S. Patton's US Third Army
. Despite Patton's racism
, the battalion was implemented and performed with distinction in a number of important battles, although Patton himself never officially recognized their accomplishments.
Rivers would play a critical role in some of the earliest action the 761<sup>st</sup> would see, becoming the battalion's initial hero,... Read More