The Town of Hempstead on Sunday dedicated a street in Inwood to a former resident and World War II veteran who served in the country’s first African-American tank unit.
Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman led the dedication of Bayview Avenue at Thomas Court in Inwood to Jeff Burns Sr., who died in 1988 at the age of 84 after serving in the 761st Battalion. It was the first all-black tank unit to go into battle.
“Sergeant Burns and his fellow soldiers in the 761 not only displayed great heroism in battle but had the added stress of dealing with racist attitudes from too many that will always be a sad part of our country’s history,” Blakeman said in a statement.
Known as the “Black Panthers,” the group of 30 officers and 676 enlisted men landed in Normandy, France, on Oct. 10, 1944, and fought the German army across France and Germany for 183 days, according to congressional records.
For their service, members of the battalion received 11 Silver Stars, 70 Bronze Stars, 250 Purple Hearts and a Medal of Honor, congressional records show.
After the war, Burns raised his family on Bayview Avenue in Inwood and ran a dry cleaning business in Lynbrook, according to a news release from the Town of Hempstead.
At the dedication ceremony Sunday, Jeff Burns Jr. called for preserving the memory of his father’s battalion.
“It’s important that everybody know about this particular unit, not just African-Americans,” he said.
“They were fighting for everybody.”