George McConnell (also known as "E.G." or "Mack"), was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York to Jamaican immigrant parents, Vernon George and Katherine (Palmer) McConnell on September 28, 1925. He was the younger of two children.
In 1942, George eagerly volunteered and joined the United States Army at only sixteen years old to fight in World War II with his mother's permission. As so many other African American patriots, his high expectations would be tainted by humiliating "Jim Crow" laws and segregated practices of the United States Army. As a new recruit he never got over his first trip to the South aboard a military transport train in route to basic training. The New York teenager who came from a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Queens, a suburb of New York City, was traumatically shocked by the racist culture of the Deep South as well as the Army's tolerance to it.
Fortunately, "E.G." as his army comrades would call him, was privileged to become a part of a historical military experiment under the FDR administration. Due to the special interest and urging of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, exclusive all-black units such as the 761st Tank Battalion were commissioned.
They fought in the European theater on the frontline under General Patton, battling against Hitler's armies for as long as 183 consecutive days. Their unit sustained heavy casualties under brutal conditions. On November 25, 1944, George narrowly escaped death in what is now known as "the slaughter at Honskirch." He sustained a serious head injury and shrapnel wounds that would have an impact on his health for the rest of his life. Thanksgiving that year was spent in an Army hospital in England where he was visited by General Patton himself. Private E.G. McConnell was granted the Purple Heart and eagerly returned to the frontline to fight beside his comrades for the duration of the war.
The 761st Tank Battalion, also known as "The Black Panthers," is credited for spearheading assaults that would lead up to the liberation of holocaust prisoners from Nazi concentration camps, and contribute to the victory of the Battle of The Bulge of 1945, among many other notable heroic contributions. Unlike their white American comrades, the black soldiers of World War II fought their battle on two fronts: the military frontline and the frontline of systemic racial segregation.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter granted the 761st Tank Battalion with the "Presidential Unit Citation" for their extraordinary valor and service; the highest honor that can be granted to a military unit.
George was proud of his black heritage and proud of his military experience. One of his favorite phrases was, "I'm a WW II veteran." He was a major contributor and source for several books and journalist pieces written about the 761st, as well as a consultant and taking part in film documentaries, radio and television interviews. Black History Month was one of his favorite months because he enjoyed giving lectures on his favorite topic.
"Mack" and Lillian married November 19, 1949, in New York City. Their union created four dedicated children; a daughter and three sons.
He passed away suddenly on March 13, 2007. He is survived by: his wife of fifty-seven years, Lillian; children, Carole Lillian, Thomas George, Michael Westley and Gary George; five grandchildren, Ebonee, Zarifa, Omar, Michael Jr. and Harris; six great-grandchildren, Danielle, Anthony, Malcolm, Derek Jr., Elijah and Lorraine; his sister and brother-in-law, Ruth and James Lindsey; his in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Levy Ingram and Lottie Taylor; goddaughter, Janice Palmer-Carter; and a host of cousins, nephews and nieces. Our Christian spirit prays for his peaceful transition.
The obituary, above, provided by Joe Wilson, Jr., was published as part of the funeral service for E.G. McConnell held on Sunday, March 18, 2007, in Jamaica, New York, prior to interment at the Calverton National Cemetary.
Click here to see an article describing some of E.G. McConnell's Army experience, published February 15, 2007, in The Turret, a publication serving the Fort Knox community.