‘Triple Nickles’ to share story

Published 10:01 am Monday, February 23, 2009

FAIRLAND — During the last year of the Second World War and two years afterwards there was a group of African Americans that many writing histories of the day seem to have forgotten.

They called themselves “The Triple Nickles,” and were the 555th parachute infantry battalion of the U.S. Army. In the days of deep segregation it was an anomaly for black soldiers to be more than drivers and cooks. What was also unique about this outfit was that it was entirely African American right down to its commanding officer.

Now the sole survivors of “The Triple Nickles,” — Lt. Col. John C. Cannan, now of Morgantown, W.Va, will be a guest speaker at Fairland High School at a number of assemblies on Tuesday.

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The event came about when social studies teacher, Sharon Graham, had her classes studying World War II at the same time as black history month.

“I wanted to do something for Black History Month and wanted to keep it in line with what we were studying,” Graham said.

She also wanted her students to deeper their understanding of the African-American community beyond the civil rights struggle. So she went to the Internet and googled “African-American troops in World War II.”

“A lot of things come up,” Graham said.

Next Fairland librarian Evelyn Capper found a Web site for “The Triple Nickles,” and contacted a resource with the site discovering that Cannan was available to come to Fairland.

“My hope for the whole project is that I want them to see African American heroes,” Graham said. “We were over in Europe fighting fascism and our army was segregated. These kids are so removed from that.”