National Black History Month Spotlight: Sgt. Ruben Rivers

National Black History Month Spotlight: Sgt. Ruben Rivers

(KFVS) - February is Black History Month, and in the spotlight for Feb. 26, 2016 is Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Ruben Rivers (1921-1944).

No African American soldier or sailor was awarded a Medal of Honor during or shortly after World War II.

In 1993 a Department of Defense study found that systemic racism kept blacks from being nominated and recommended the Army consider a group of 10 soldiers who'd been awarded for the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Rivers was among those soldiers.

Rivers had already been awarded the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, for his heroic actions as a member of the 761st Tank Battalion in northeastern France in November of 1944.

River's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

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.

A week later Rivers distinguished himself again. After being seriously injured when his tank hit a German land mine, Rivers allowed medics to clean his wound before refusing to leave the field of battle, taking command of another tank and leading the charge against a Nazi anti-tank unit. He was killed in the assault.

His commander recommended Rivers be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On January 13, 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to seven of the World War II veterans; Rivers was among those honored.

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