Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone

Candlewick 2013

I have a critique partner who lets you know when you really get something right. When that happens she says, “I love this–love, love!” It’s the ultimate seal of approval. That’s the way I feel about Tanya Lee Stone’s account of the Triple Nickles.

I’ve always been drawn to paratrooper stories, which, if you knew me, makes no sense at all. In fact, the paratrooper I most related to in this book was the one who balked when it came to actually jumping out of the plane. He couldn’t make the jump, just couldn’t throw his body out of the plane, but he wouldn’t leave the group either. He stayed with them and became their cook. That would be me. Chili anyone?

Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, Courage Has No Color is an inspiring story about a group of men who overlooked racism and prejudice against them in their drive to prove their dedication to their country and their wish to contribute to the war effort in World War II. Stone candy coats nothing and makes the degree of prejudice they faced clear through the men’s recollections, but she keeps the story focused on the Triple Nickles’ drive for success in an elite and very difficult field. She rounds it out by looking at integration in the armed forces as a whole. She also makes connections to the struggle of Japanese-Americans to fight internment and aid in the war effort and points out the irony of the racist attitudes and policies of Americans and the American government while fighting the Nazi regime’s racist atrocities.

The story drew me right in. It had me rooting for the success of the group who began training on their own time as a way to beat the boredom of guard duties at the paratrooper training grounds. Photographs and personal interviews make the story come alive. A final story of one of the Triple Nickles pinning the paratrooper wings on his grandson in a fully integrated graduation ceremony had tears pricking in my eyes.

A timeline, notes on writing the story, and a long bibliography of sources make this a great learning tool. This would be a wonderful addition to any school library. I’d also recommend it as a classroom read-aloud book. It’s filled with wonderful period images and includes much fodder for classroom discussions.

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