Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers

by Tanya Lee Stone (Author)

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers
They became America's first black paratroopers. Why was their story never told? Sibert Medalist Tanya Lee Stone reveals the history of the Triple Nickles during World War II.

World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Enlisted black men are segregated from white soldiers and regularly relegated to service duties. At Fort Benning, Georgia, First Sergeant Walter Morris's men serve as guards at The Parachute School, while the white soldiers prepare to be paratroopers. Morris knows that for his men to be treated like soldiers, they have to train and act like them, but would the military elite and politicians recognize the potential of these men as well as their passion for serving their country? Tanya Lee Stone examines the role of African Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America's first black paratroopers, who fought in a little-known attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of Morris, "proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability."

From Courage Has No Color
What did it take to be a paratrooper in World War II? Specialized training, extreme physical fitness, courage, and -- until the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (the Triple Nickles) was formed -- white skin. It is 1943. Americans are overseas fighting World War II to help keep the world safe from Adolf Hitler's tyranny, safe from injustice, safe from discrimination. Yet right here at home, people with white skin have rights that people with black skin do not. What is courage? What is strength? Perhaps it is being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation isn't ready to fight for you. Front matter includes a foreword by Ashley Bryan. Back matter includes an author's note, an appendix, a time line, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

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Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Stone (Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream) opens with an enticing question, "What is it like to jump out of an airplane?" The answer, which lets readers imagine doing just that as a paratrooper, will immediately draw them into this thorough story of the U.S. military's first black paratroopers. More than just an account of their endeavors during WWII, the narrative takes on a broader perspective as it contextualizes the story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Set against the entrenched racism of the 1940s, the nine chapters include asides about media stereotypes regarding African-Americans and how photographs of black soldiers were often left out of the military record. Myriad quotations from personal interviews and more than 100 b&w photos reveal the heroism and perseverance of these groundbreaking men. While they didn't see combat (they were instead sent out West to become smoke jumpers), Stone's final chapters reveal how the Triple Nickles' service helped integrate both the military and society at large. A captivating look at a small but significant piece of military and civil rights history. Ages 10-up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Jan.)

Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--A moving, thoughtful history of the the United States military's first black paratrooper unit. During World War II, African American soldiers were mostly relegated to service and security jobs, generally denied the same training and active-combat positions that were available to their white counterparts. Expertly woven together are two narratives: the large, overarching history of rampant racism in the U.S. military and the smaller, tightly focused account of a group of black soldiers determined to serve their country and demonstrate their value as soldiers. Readers are taken along on the emotional journey with the soldiers as they leapt forward from guard duty at The Parachute School into official paratrooper training, the first of its kind for blacks. They faced multiple setbacks as they encountered discrimination, some justified as "policy" and some that was more personal and insidious. Throughout the book, the courage and strength of these men is evidenced in their tireless quest to be the best at what they do, throwing themselves headlong into sometimes dangerous and terrifying training requirements. The photographs and the design of the book as a whole are a gift to readers. Rich with detail, the pictures not only complement the narrative, but also tell a stirring story of their own, chronicling the triumphs and frustrations of the soldiers as they pursued their dreams. Complete accessibility to a wide range of readers, coupled with expert research and meticulous care, makes this a must-have for any library.--Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Rich with detail, the pictures not only complement the narrative, but also tell a stirring story of their own, chronicling the triumphs and frustrations of the soldiers as they pursued their dreams. Complete accessibility to a wide range of readers, coupled with expert research and meticulous care, makes this a must-have for any library.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

An exceptionally well-researched, lovingly crafted and important tribute to unsung American heroes.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A captivating look at a small but significant piece of military and civil rights history.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Written with great immediacy, clarity, and authority, Stone's vivid narrative draws readers into the Triple Nickle's wartime experiences. Many well-chosen quotes enhance the text, while excellent black-and-white illustrations, mainly photos, document both the men of the 555th and racial prejudice on the home front...This handsome volume documents the sometimes harrowing, often frustrating, and ultimately rewarding experiences of the Triple Nickles.
—Booklist (starred review)

This will appeal to readers who like history, adventure, and the military. ... [Stone's] strength as an author is that she makes rereading the text a joy.

The book's focus is wide: there are excellent sections on segregation and stereotypes in American history, Japanese American internment camps, Japanese balloon bombs, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Firefly, brought to life with archival photographs and Stone's always clear prose.
—Horn Book

Richly illustrated with photographs, this compelling story of the Triple Nickles' training and Pacific coast mission will be of particular interest to young teens who have read Shelley Pearsall's Jump into the Sky (BCCB 10/12), and the appended bibliography, timeline, notes, and index will guide their further exploration of these heroes.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

The well-researched book includes interviews with many of the original paratroopers. ... This would be a good book for use in a study of World War II, a look at the civil rights movement, or a unit on discrimination.
—Library Media Connection

Stone opens her new book with what it felt like to be a paratrooper — the thrill and the fright of jumping out of an airplane, ready for battle... Facing racial intolerance and raging fires, pushing for integration and opportunity, the Triple Nickles make clear that courage has no color but many facets.
—The Washington Post

Stone weaves the story of these brave men and their wartime efforts within the larger story of discrimination within the military and the nation itself...This is outstanding nonfiction and is a real curriculum gem as well as being a deeply compelling reading experience.
—Booklist's Blog Bookends

Through interviews with World War II veterans such as Walter Morris, Tanya Lee Stone's illustrated history tells the little-known story of the Army's 555th Infantry Battalion of black soldiers, who had to fight racism within the military for the right to jump out of planes.
—USA Today

A fascinating, thorough and inspiring account.
—Shelf Awareness

Consider this a fine bit of research and history that deserves praise and honors galore.
—A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)

[A]n inspiring tale that fits into curriculum units on American history, WW2, black history, civil rights history and even a discussion on bullying and racism. ... But this is a book for adults as well. Meticulously researched using primary source material, the story comes alive against the background of segregation, American values vs. Hitler's monstrous acts, and the passions of young American men who were frustrated in demonstrating their loyalty to their country by the color of their skin.
—Huff Post Impact (blog)

Balancing a rich mix of photos and illustrations, Courage is narrative-focused — perfect for introducing inquisitive schoolchildren to America's complicated history with race and the military.
—Scooter Magazine
Tanya Lee Stone
Tanya Lee Stone has written many biographies for young readers. She lives in Burlington, Vermont.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
January 20, 2013
Junior Library Guild Selection
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF053140 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Prejudice & Racism
JNF025130 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Military & Wars
Library of Congress categories
African Americans
United States
Social conditions
World War, 1939-1945
Participation, African American
To 1964
Regimental histories
African American soldiers
History 555th
Parents Choice Awards (Spring) (2008-Up)
Recommended 2013 - 2013
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2014 - 2015
Orbis Pictus Award
Honor Book 2014 - 2014
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Recommended 2015 - 2015
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2014 - 2014
Keystone to Reading Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Tayshas Reading
Commended 2014 - 2014
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2015 - 2015
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016
William Allen White Childens Book Award
Nominee 2016 - 2016

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