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First Name: Paul

Last Name: Bates

Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)



Middle Name: Levern



Date of Birth: 04 March 1908

Date of Death: 21 February 1995

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Paul Levern Bates

   
Engagements:
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)

Biography:

Paul Levern Bates
Colonel, U.S. Army

Paul Levern Bates was born on 4 March 1908 in Los Angeles, CA. In 1931, he graduated from McDaniel College (at the time named Western Maryland College), where he was a star football player and a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He also worked as a high school football coach and a teacher before entering the Army as a First Lieutenant in February 1941.

In January 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Bates, took command of the 761st Tank Battalion, all of whose enlisted men were black.

When the unit completed training in rigidly segregated boot camps in Louisiana and Texas, Bates refused a promotion from Lieutenant Colonel that would have separated him from what he regarded as one of the best tank battalions in the Army. He was later promoted to Colonel.

While in Texas, Bates refused to court-martial a black officer who had refused to move to the rear of a bus at Fort Hood. That officer was Jackie Robinson, who was subsequently court-martialed for insubordination, but not convicted, and left the 761st before it went overseas. Praising Bates for his fairness and good judgment in his autobiography, Robinson would go on to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 761st entered combat in November 1944 as part of General George S. Patton's Third Army and fought for 183 consecutive days without relief, according to David Williams, a Battalion veteran and the author of the novel Hit Hard. The Battalion fought in France, then in Germany, where it pierced the Siegfried Line, and then in Belgium, where it fought the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge. The 761st also fought in Luxembourg and Austria. In all, the 761st Tank Battalion went from Vic-sur-Seille, France, to the Enns River in Steyr, Austria, where it linked up with the Soviet Army.

The unit, whose shoulder patch had a black panther, inflicted thousands of casualties on the enemy and captured, destroyed or liberated more than 30 major towns, four airfields, three ammunition-supply dumps, 461 wheeled vehicles, 34 tanks, 113 large guns and a radio station.

Ironically, Colonel Bates was the first member of the 761st to be wounded. Among its 687 enlisted men and 41 officers, 276 received the Purple Heart for wounds in action and 36 died in combat. In 1963, he retired from the Army after serving in combat commands in Europe, at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, KS, and at the Pentagon.

Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal (2 Awards)
Purple Heart

The 761st Tank Battalion

In 1978, after a 33-year struggle by the Unit's veterans, President Jimmy Carter awarded the 761st a Presidential Unit Citation "for extraordinary heroism in action."

Following his retirement in 1963, Colonel Bates remained in close touch with the veterans of the 761st and their families, attending yearly reunions and establishing a scholarship at McDaniel College for lineal descendants of the Battalion members who served the unit from August 1944 through April 1945.

Under the terms of his will, the Paul L. Bates Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 and is administered and maintained by the Board of Trustees of McDaniel College in Westminster, MD.

In 1993, the 761st made news because of a PBS documentary, Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II, in which two of its former enlisted men said the Battalion had participated in the liberation of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. But Colonel Bates, along with other officers, noted that the unit was spread over a 50-mile front supporting the 71st Infantry Division at the time and would not confirm the claim. The unit did however liberate Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen complex.

Death and Burial

Colonel Paul Levern Bates died on 21 February 1995. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.



Honoree ID: 2225   Created by: MHOH

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