By Christopher Miskimon
The 597th Field Artillery Battalion, 92nd Infantry Division, was the first, last, and only direct support field artillery battalion entirely commanded by black officers to see combat in U.S. Army history. It was also the first all-black unit in a combat division. The unit’s commander, Colonel Wendell T. Derricks, was an effective and skilled leader who also strove to protect his soldiers from the racism black troops experienced throughout the war. He was the most senior black officer to command troops on the ground during the war, and though recommended for the Legion of Merit, it was turned down at the time.
The author was an officer in the 597th during World War II and Korea, who had his own distinguished military career. He saw firsthand the unit’s hardships and setbacks, but also its successes and victories. His brings this direct knowledge to bear in this detailed and fascinating look at the experiences of African American military units during the war.
Derrick’s Bridgehead: The History of the 92nd Division, 597th Field Artillery Battalion, and the Leadership Legacy of Col. Wendell T. Derricks (Lt. Col. Major Clark, Casemate Books, Havertown, PA, 2023, 304 pp., photographs, notes, appendices, bibliography, $37.95, hardcover)