WWII’s African-American Paratroopers, the “Triple Nickles,” Lauded in New Book

Award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone is clear about why she’s written her new nonfiction book, “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers” (Candlewick Press, $24.99).  “I want to help the Triple Nickles become as well-known as the Tuskegee Airmen,” Stone says.
The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in the U.S. military, are now an integral part of the history of World War II. Far fewer people, however, have heard of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion — nicknamed the “Triple Nickles” — and the unit’s pioneering efforts to open up paratrooper jobs during World War II.
In her meticulously researched, well-written book, Stone tells the story of how the 555th was established in 1943 — a unit with black soldiers and black officers, the first-ever black U.S. paratroopers.

The unit’s nickname was a nod to the Buffalo Soldiers, as the African-American regiments in the U.S. Civil War and later were called. The “Triple Nickles” name also connects to the buffalo image that was stamped on American nickels for many years.

It took Stone 10 years, working off and on, to write “Courage Has No Color.” It was definitely worth the wait, as Stone movingly portrays the inspiring courage, determination and persistence displayed by African-American servicemen in the face of overwhelming racial prejudice in the U.S. military. It’s a story that Stone strongly believes should be much better known than it is.  “These men are almost not with us anymore,” Stone says, noting that many of the Triple Nickles are in their 90s.

“Courage Has No Color” was a compelling project for Stone, who won the 2010 Sibert Medal for her book “Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.” The Sibert Medal is given annually by the American Library Association to the best-written nonfiction book for young people.

Winning the Sibert cemented Stone’s reputation as one of the best writers of nonfiction books for young people, someone who combines painstaking research with an appealing writing style.

In “Courage Has No Color,” Stone’s research is evident by the historical, cultural and personal perspectives she gives to the story of the Triple Nickles. But it is her writing that will engage young readers as they get to know some of the African-Americans who overcame the odds to win the right to become paratroopers.

“Improvements still need to be made,” Stone writes. “Prejudice is a flaw of human nature, but awareness and education are powerful weapons against it.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130422/ENT05/304220302#ixzz2Rk4sIdKZ

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