Tanya Lee Stone tells the story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Batallion, America’s first black paratrooper unit, in this meticulously researched book. Courage Has No Color is a story of men who overcame great odds and great prejudice. Stone tells the stories of the individual men against the backdrop of the time period and the racism that they all encountered in some way.
Sadly, it’s also the story of dreams deferred and progress achieved all too slowly. The men of the 555th, although combat-ready and willing to fight for their country during WWII were never sent oversees into combat. Instead, they were sent to fight fires in the Pacific Northwest as smoke jumpers (paratroopers who jump out of planes in order to fight wildfires). In some ways their story could be a letdown, but Stone tells it with dignity and respect.
Stone interviewed some of the surviving “Triple Nickles” and includes their words in the text, which makes for powerful reading. In the words of one of those men, Walter Morris:
We succeeded where we were not expected to succeed. And we overcame the pitfalls that were put there. We overcame. And it’s a warm feeling to know that, that color has nothing to do with it. It’s what’s in one’s heart. One’s spirit. And that….should be a lesson to all of us.
p. 114 Courage Has No Color
Ultimately, I think the best thing I can say about this book is that it becomes a great story apart from the racial issues. Yes, it’s a great story about black paratroopers but even more it’s just a great human story about people triumphing over the odds.
Due to the subject matter and length this is probably best for middle schoolers, or upper elementary students who are strong readers and with an interest in history.
This book is a nominee for a Cybils Award in the Elementary and Middle Grade Non-Fiction category for which I am a Round 1 panelist. I obtained a copy of the book from my library. My opinions are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the other panelists.