Last of WWII black paratrooper pioneers dies at 96

The last living member of a pioneering unit that paved the way for the U.S. military's first black paratroopers has died. Clarence Beavers was 96.

The A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home in Huntington Station, New York, says Beavers died Dec. 4.

Newsday reports the Harlem-born Beavers joined the segregated U.S. Army in 1941 and rose to the rank of sergeant. In 1944, he and 19 other black soldiers became part of a test platoon for airborne training. Beavers and 16 others passed, setting the foundation for what became the all-black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, known as the Triple Nickels.

Beavers, who lived in Huntington Station on Long Island, was the last of the original 17.

The 555th spent the last year of the war fighting forest fires set in the Pacific Northwest by Japanese balloon-transported bombs.


Information from: Newsday,