The Triple Nickles were the first Black paratroopers in America. While they did not see combat in World War II, they were instrumental in showing that Black soldiers were equal to White soldiers and, along with a farsighted General, began the process of integrating the U.S. Armed Forces.
Tanya Lee Stone’s latest book, Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers is an immensely readable and enjoyable history of the Triple Nickles, from their humble beginnings (training themselves by performing the same exercies as the White paratrooper soldiers) to becoming a formal unit in the military to being decorated as heroes decades after the war was over.
Unsure what to do with this highly trained group, the Triple Nickles were sent to the Western United States as firejumpers, those firefighters who parachute directly into fires to combat them. This was in response to the Japanese sending balloons laden with bombs across the Pacific with the intent of bombing the U. S. on its own turf. Some did actually land and start forest fires. Firejumping was a new profession in the mid-1940s and the Triple NIckles performed this function with honor. Although it was not fighting Hitler, it was still serving their country.
Courage Has No Color was an eye-opener to me because I never realized the segregation and bigotry that existed in the Armed Forces during W.W. II. Stone’s writing style brings the action and people to life. The extent of her research is obvious in the writing and footnotes. In my mind, Stone, along with Susan Campbell Bartoletti are the two major forces in readable Young Adult non-fiction.
For another eye-opener, read Stone’s previous book, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. I couldn’t put either book down. You won’t be disappointed.