AUSA Graphic Novel Honors WWII Tank Hero

AUSA Graphic Novel Honors WWII Tank Hero

Comic book cover
Photo by: AUSA

Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, who ignored his own wounds to protect his fellow soldiers in the 761st Tank Battalion during World War II, is the focus of the latest graphic novel in the Association of the U.S. Army’s series on recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor.

Medal of Honor: Ruben Rivers tells of how Rivers, who served in the famed tank battalion known as the “Black Panthers,” refused evacuation after his tank hit a mine outside Guebling, France. Instead, he took command of another tank and kept fighting. Three days later, when the company ran into German defenses, Rivers fought to cover the unit’s withdrawal and was killed by anti-tank fire.

“Ruben Rivers was a case study in determination,” said Joseph Craig, AUSA’s Book Program director. “I’m proud to share his story with our readers, and I’m grateful to the creative team for bringing it to life.”

Medal of Honor: Ruben Rivers is available here.

AUSA launched its Medal of Honor graphic novel series in October 2018. This is the 21st novel in the series. The digital graphic novels are available here.

A native of Oklahoma, Rivers was drafted into the Army in January 1942. At Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, Rivers was assigned to the unit that would become the 761st Tank Battalion, a new all-Black armored unit in the then-segregated Army. After months of training, the unit was sent to war, landing at France’s Omaha Beach in October 1944.

In November 1944, the Black Panthers got their first taste of combat, attacking the German-held town of Morville-les-Vic, France. As the American tanks advanced, Rivers encountered a German roadblock. Under heavy fire, “he leaped out of the tank, attached a cable from his Sherman to the roadblock, remounted, and then had his tank pull the obstacle off the road, freeing the tank column to resume the advance and capture the town,” according to the National World War II Museum.

On Nov. 16, as Rivers and his soldiers moved into Guebling, France, Rivers’ tank hit a mine. The blast severely wounded his right leg, slashing it to the bone, but Rivers refused to be evacuated or receive a shot of morphine, according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Instead, Rivers took command of another tank and moved with his company into Guebling the next day.

“Repeatedly refusing evacuation, Staff Sergeant Rivers continued to direct his tank’s fire at enemy positions beyond the town through the morning of 19 November 1944,” the citation states.

As the tanks advanced toward Bourgaltoff, their next objective, they were stopped by enemy fire. Capt. David Williams, the company commander, ordered his tanks to withdraw and take cover.

“Staff Sergeant Rivers, however, radioed that he had spotted the German antitank positions: ‘I see ‘em. We’ll fight ‘em!’ ” his citation says.

Rivers and another tank opened fire on the enemy, covering the others as they withdrew. An enemy round hit Rivers’ tank, killing him and wounding the rest of the crew.

More than 50 years later, on Jan. 13, 1997, Rivers’ sister, Grace Woodfolk, received his Medal of Honor from President Bill Clinton.

Each AUSA graphic novel is created by a team of professional comic book veterans. The script for the graphic novel on Rivers was written by Chuck Dixon, whose previous work includes Batman, The Punisher and The ‘Nam.

Pencils, inks and the cover were by Wayne Vansant, who has worked on The ’Nam, Savage Tales and All Quiet on the Western Front; colors were by Peter Pantazis, who previously worked on Justice League, Superman and Black Panther; and the lettering was by Troy Peteri, who has worked on Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men.