Brothers in Arms

  • by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anthony Walton
  • Narrated by Richard Allen
  • 9 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A world famous basketball player writing about the history of World War II may seem incongruous. But there is an order to these things; Abdul-Jabbar's high school mentor, Leonard Smith, was in the 761st Battalion, the first all-black tank battalion to see combat in World War II.Together, Abdul-Jabbar and Smith interviewed the unit's 70 survivors and gleaned from them the story of this amazing band of brothers. The 761st operated under conditions of institutional racism that were as severe and evil as anything it might face on the battlefield. Yet, fighting with Patton at the Battle of the Bulge, it helped to turn back the German offensive. It even helped to liberate the concentration camp at Mauthausen. Abdul-Jabbar speaks to the honor, bravery, and dignity that characterized these men.


What the Critics Say

"A wealth of visual and tactical detail about what it was like to work, and often live, on the inside of a tank.... While it will leave aficionados satisfied, this is military history that will prove compelling to anyone with an interest in black men's experience during the 20th century." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Would you listen to Brothers in Arms again? Why?

Most definitely! Normally I would never read a book about a military war written by a professional basketball player. I say "Play your position!" I'd already been through the period in my career when we tried to convince Shaq to keep his "day job" because he absolutely could not RAP! But I digress..... Kareem Abdul Jabbar did his research here and, as a result of due diligence, delivers "Nothing But Air" - ALL NET!! An amazing, amazing story not known to most black Americans, much less the world at large.

What did you like best about this story?

This is not just an emotional "we been done wrong" bleeding heart account. It is factual, well-written, and unbiased.

What does Richard Allen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He is a black man and, probably without realizing it, adds layers of pride and dignity to an already heroic story.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The very end, the interviews with two of the surviving 761st Tank Battalion "Black Panthers". WOW! It brought me to tears!

Any additional comments?

This is a must-read for everyone who calls themselves an American. To hear about the bravery and sacrifice of men fighting for a nation that treated them like second-class citizens is appalling. Talk about hidden historical facts! These guys helped Patton win the war, even though he never acknowledged their contribution. (Patton died in a car accident the year after the war ended. See? God don't like ugly! ) The greatest tank battalion to ever fight in a war. They lost their lives to bring an end to Adolfo Hitler's reign of terror against the Jews and to gain the freedom of American, British, Australian and Danish soldiers being starved, beaten, tortured, murdered, and otherwise degraded by the Japanese in prisoner of war camps. To avenge the wholesale rape of Chinese women, the use of Chinese children as targets in "skeet shooting" by Japanese soldiers during the siege on Nanking. The enforced unpaid labor and killings of Chinese peasants by the Japanese throughout WWII.

Then these brave black American "citizens" returned home to sit in the back of buses, drink from "Colored" water fountains, be denied jobs, benefits, home loans and education for themselves and their children - the things given to every white veteran, many of whom saw no action at all.. Even while saving the lives of white soldiers, these soldiers were called "nigger" and "monkey". Yet they fought on with dignity, honor, respect and a bravery not borne from the support of a nation who treated them like second-class citizens.

The US claimed that they weren't smart enough or brave enough to be airmen so they were assigned to do a job that "no white man should be wasted doing" - to be boxed into what the military itself termed "iron coffins", huge unwieldy, untested rolling death boxes, often full of deadly carbon monoxide. Yet those black soldiers taught themselves how to drive and survive in those Sherman tanks, thereby being responsible for saving the lives of thousands upon thousands of white soldiers and officers. They had to fight another several decades to get the recognition they deserved. The records of their service and heroism were purposely destroyed because the government did not want it to be known how this country, allegedly the first democratic nation in the world, treated its citizens (and still does today) solely because of the color of our skin. These soldiers had to wait until the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - long after most of the surviving members of the 761st battalion had passed away - to get their due. Or PART of it, anyway. White Americans should be ashamed to show their faces after such hypocrisy. I hope you all read this book written by a brother about the REAL "Band of Brothers"! Learn what it means to be a true American!!! 🇺🇸

NOTE: One of the original members of the 761st Tank Battalion was the first black professional baseball player, Jackie Robinson, who suffered racism coming and going! What happened to the "unalienable right that we were ALL created equal"? My bad! Those documents were written by men who enslaved men and raped women but still got to the President of this country! The same nation that tried to impeach Bill Clinton for cheating on his wife! None of our business! Hypocrites! 👎😠

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- Linda Lou "OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!"

The Greatest of the Greatest Generation

In the genre of Stephen Ambrose and every bit as good. Yet in one critical way, it is much better. Brothers In Arms tells the story of the fighting men of the 761st tank battalion. The racism these men faced is presented in a straightforward and serious way as simply another aspect of their lives, albeit a gut-wrenchingly important one. There is no preaching or rhetoric in the story and it just simply kills me. In the historical context, it was like discovering a completely unrecognized enemy in the war, even though I have always known that racism was there.

In the face of such degrading hardship from their own country it would be impossible for any man to accomplish what these men did if they did not have each other. Brothers In Arms really brings this home without even trying and has given me a deep and profound appreciation for the word Brother. All of this said, this book is not about racism in WWII, it is about the 761st tank battalion and the incredible fighting they did and the vital contribution they made to winning the war.

It should be no surprise that Kareem Abdul Jabar produced this excellent book; he has successfully pursued excellence all his life. The story is clearly written. I find that often in Ambrose' books it is difficult to tell to whom or to what a particular character is referring to when they are speaking. Not so here. I found myself thinking about this book many weeks after listening to it. I have been filled with emotion and a sense of patriotism, which feels odd considering the treatment of these men. I cannot say enough in favor of this book, and more importantly, of the men of the 761st. MB
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- Michael T Brannock

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-18-2004
  • Publisher: Books on Tape