SSG Rivers


Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers was part of Company A, attached to the 104th Infantry in the attack and capture of Vic-sur-Seille. The next day, the force took Chateau-Salins in a four-hour fight in the season's first snowstorm, then continued east toward Morville-les-Vic. The battalion commander was wounded and evacuated, and a 104th task-force commander had been evacuated for combat fatigue. Nine of the battalion's enlisted soldiers were killed. On Nov. 12, Company A repulsed an enemy counterattack near Wuisse, destroying two enemy tanks. The next day, a platoon acting on its own counterattacked and took the town -- holding it through the night until the rest of the force could move up.

The target for Nov. 16 was Guebling, France. Rivers' tank hit a mine at a railroad crossing while advancing toward the town with his company. His leg was slashed to the bone in the explosion, but he refused a morphine injection and, as many would do in the 761st, he also refused to be evacuated. He would refuse numerous evacuation offers over the next few days. Taking command of another tank, Rivers advanced with his company to take Guebling the next day and directed his tank's fire at enemy positions east of town through the morning of Nov. 19, despite the company losing three of its five tanks in the town to antitank fire and one to mines. One tank crew acquired a replacement and returned to the town.

Continuing the attack east toward Bourgaltroff Nov. 19, the company was stopped by enemy fire. Capt. David J. Williams, the company commander, ordered his tanks to withdraw to cover, but Rivers radioed that he had spotted the antitank position. "I see 'em. We'll fight 'em," Rivers said, and opened up on the enemy tanks, covering Company A's withdrawal. Rivers' tank was hit, killing him and wounding the rest of the crew.

In November alone, the battalion had 22 killed in action, two who died of wounds, 81 wounded, 44 non-battle casualties, 14 tanks lost and 20 damaged. The battalion went with the Third Army to the relief of the encirclement of Bastogne the following month, and into Germany. By war's end, 761st troops had accrued 11 Silver Stars and 69 Bronze Star Medals -- most for valor under fire.

Above from Army News, January 1997

Medal of Honor Citation:

Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers

Citation: 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.

Above from African American World War II Medal of Honor Recipients, U.S. Army web site

SSG Rivers memorial

Burial site of Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers in the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France. Photo courtesy of Zack Sigler, Historian, 103d Infantry Division, 409th Regiment, D-Company (Heavy Weapons.)

Click here to see video footage from the Lorraine American Cemetery honoring Ruben Rivers (video prepared and provided by Lieutenant Colonel Eric Jackson, U.S. Army. Note: the nearly five minute video will start about the middle, with the part emphasizing SSG Rivers; to see the whole video move the video place marker to the left, to the beginning.)