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Native Americans and World War II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As many as 25,000 Native Americans actively fought in World War II: 21,767 in the Army, 1,910 in the Navy, 874 in the Marines, 121 in the Coast Guard, and several hundred Native American women as nurses. These figures represent over one-third of able-bodied Native American men aged 18–50, and even included as high as seventy percent of the population of some tribes. Unlike African Americans, Native Americans did not serve in segregated units and served alongside white Americans.[1]

Alison R. Bernstein argues that World War II presented the first large-scale exodus of Native Americans from reservations since the reservation system began, and presented an opportunity for many Native Americans to leave reservations and enter the "white world". For many soldiers, World War II represented the first interracial contact between natives living on relatively isolated reservations.[1]:67

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  • ✪ Native Americans In WW1 - Superstitions - Paint Jobs I OUT OF THE TRENCHES
  • ✪ Mohawks in Normandy: Native American Imagery and Service in the Second World War
  • ✪ Indians in World War 1
  • ✪ The Natives and the English - Crash Course US History #3
  • ✪ Non-European Volunteers in the German Army - World War II


I'm Indy Neidell, and this is 'Out of the Trenches' Where I sit here in the Chair of Wisdom, And answer all your questions about the First World War. (Theme Music) The Great War: Out of the Trenches Tyler Button writes "What role did Native American people take in the war?" Well, Native Americans were not considered to be U.S citizens at the outbreak of the Great War. So they were exempted from any drafts, but in spit of this, around ten-thousand joined the U.S Army. The Onondaga Nation, of the Iroquois Confederacy, went a step further actually, and declared war on Germany as they claimed "Tribe members had been mistreated in Berlin at the beginning of hostilities". Many did see this as an opportunity to carry on the warrior traditions of their forefathers. During the war, it was common for both sides, to tap each others' phone lines and eavesdrop on conversations, and Native Americans provided ― which you have probably heard about ― a novel solution to the problem of conveying orders and information without the Germans knowing that they were saying. Like when one regiment just used the Choctaw language to translate messages regarding troop movements, baffling the Germans. A lot of new vocabulary did have to be invented, like machine gun and hand grenade. But it made it pretty near impossible for the Germans to understand anything that was being said. Because of their contributions during the war, Congress passed a law during 1919, granting all who had served in the army full United States citizenship. Jackson Heath writes "Where there any sort of noteworthy superstitions among troops in the war?". "For instance did any notable number of troops believe things like: particular colors were unlucky, or that wearing certain items or doing certain things before battle, prevented them from being hit? Yes, Lots, and lots of soldiers in the Great War were seriously superstitious Many carried special talismans like, crucifixes or rabbits feet, which they would look to in times of heated conflict. Others believed that singing or humming during bombardment, would keep them safe from harm. These small rituals would give soldiers a sense of control of their situation, and that they could ward off death, even though the reality was of course, far from that. A lot of superstitions, and visions, tapped into biblical and religious beliefs. Many soldiers claimed to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ walking across the battlefield. One of the most famous of these visions, is the Angel of Mons, who protected the retreating British from the Germans in August 1914. On the Eastern Front, Russian peasant soldiers claimed to be protected from the enemy, by a White Horseman. Another popular British myth, surrounded the Statue of the Madonna at Albert. The statue had taken a hit from a shell and was hanging precariously from the steeple of a church. A story began circulating around the "Tommies", that the war would end when the statue fell. This resulted in many British soldiers, shooting at the statue to hasten its fall. It finally fell in 1918, after the Germans had captured Albert in the Spring Offensive, and the British artillery tried to shell them out again. Logan Halling says "I'm curious to know if any armies went out of their way to look "cool" and intimidating. I don't really know how to phrase that question, I've just always wondered. No, you've phrased it well. There were many examples of such psychological warfare in the Great War, especially in the Air. Many pilots had camouflage paint on their aircraft, but German Ace Pilots, like the Red Baron, would often paint their planes in bright colours. This was to let the enemy know that the man in that machine was an expert pilot, and they would consequently be frightened an intimidated. Zeppelins were also a great psychological weapon. Their bombing campaigns in Britain, did not destroy target as much as you know you would expect in the Second World War, but they were terrifying to look at, and they put the fear of God into the general public in Britain and France. Their deployment was to crush the moral and resolve of the populations of those countries. British Officers would often paint eyes on each side of their tanks, as you see in ancient Greek Triremes, right, This was also to intimidate the enemy. Even the Pickelhaube, you know, the spiky helmets the Germans wore at the beginning of the war. They were designed not just to protect the head from a cavalry saber, but also to put fear into the enemy, when they would see an army of spiked helmets marching towards them. Speaking of Zeppelins, if you would like to see our special episode about Zeppelins you could click right here for that. (Above) Do not forget to subscribe, and we'll see you soon.



According to Burnstein, life on reservations was difficult for Native Americans prior to the war due to low levels of development and lack of economic opportunities. In 1939, the median income for Native American males living on reservations was $500, compared to the national average for males of $2300.[1]:24 Nearly one quarter of Native Americans at this time had no formal education, and even for high school graduates, few forms of conventional employment existed on reservations.[1]:25 In the absence of conventional employment, those Native Americans who stayed on the reservations generally worked the land and farmed.[1]:26

Although Native Americans were not drafted for World War I because they were not considered citizens of the United States as of 1917, approximately 10,000 Native American men volunteered for duty in World War I.[1]:33

Native American men were included along with whites in the World War II draft. Initial reactions by Native Americans to the draft were mixed. While some were eager to join the military, others resisted. Burnstein argues that due to their still questionable status as citizens of the United States at the outbreak of the second world war, many Native Americans questioned volunteering for military service, as "the Federal government had the power to force Indians to serve in the military but did not have the power to compel Mississippi to grant Indians the vote".[1]:38 Although some resisted the draft, many others who were not drafted volunteered for the war.

Native service in the war

Whether it was due to innate skill as warriors or merely a reflection of the stereotype of the Native American warrior spirit in American popular culture, Native American men were generally regarded highly for their military service in World War II.

Native Americans first saw action in the Pacific Theater along with the rest of the US Army and Navy. The first known Native American casualty of war was a young Oklahoma man who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.[1]:78 Over the course of the war, Native American men fought across the world on all fronts, and were involved in many of the most critical battles involving American troops, including Iwo Jima (which was the site of Ira Hayes' triumphant moment in the famous photograph of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima with four of his fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman), the invasion of Normandy, the liberation of the Philippines, the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Paris, and the liberation of Belgium. Native Americans were also among the first Americans to enter Germany and played a role in the liberation of Berlin.[1]:92 Casualty reports showed Native Americans fighting as far away as Australia, North Africa, and Bataan.[1]:104

Native American soldiers were sometimes mistaken by white American soldiers for Japanese soldiers and taken prisoner or fired upon.[2][3][4]

One of the most significant benefits that Native American men and women reaped from the war effort was the expectation that new skills would lead to better jobs. Due to both the waning sense of isolation on reservations brought on by the war and the influx of money, Native Americans began to have access to consumer goods and services. The average Native American income increased to $2,500 by 1944, 2.5 times greater than in 1940. However, the average salary of a Native American was still only a quarter of the average salary of a white American.[1]:100

More than 30 Native Americans were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the third-highest aviation honor.[1]:88 Not counting the Purple Heart, more than two hundred military awards were awarded to Native Americans.[1]:103 Although many Native Americans received recognition for their military service in terms of awards, these awards were later used during the termination period by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as proof that Native Americans were eager to assimilate into American culture.[citation needed]

Navajo code talkers project

In February 1942, a civilian named Philip Johnston came up with the idea of using the Navajo language as military code. Johnston, a missionaries' son, grew up on a reservation and understood the complexity of the Navajo language. By September 1942, the American government had recruited several hundred Native Americans who spoke both Navajo and English to translate English words into the Navajo language to foil enemy understanding. Often working behind enemy lines, the code talkers were commended for their bravery and gained respect from fellow soldiers.[1]:83 Until its declassification in 1968, the code that these Navajo developed remains the only oral military code to never have been broken by an enemy.[5] Only in respect. The code itself was composed of carefully selected Navajo words that used poetic circumlocution so that even a Navajo speaker would not be able to understand the communications without training. For example, there were no words in the Navajo language for military machines, weapons, or foreign countries, so these words were substituted with words that did exist in the Navajo language. For example, Britain was spoken as "between waters" (toh-ta), a dive bomber was a "chicken hawk" (gini), a grenade was a "potato" (ni-ma-si) and Germany was "iron hat" (besh-be-cha-he).[5]

In 2001, 28 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded a Congressional Gold Medals, mostly posthumously. The group has also been commemorated in various media, including books, films, notably Windtalkers (2002) starring Nicolas Cage, Battle Cry starring Van Heflin, even a Navajo Code Talker GI Joe action figure.[5]

Post war

The war's aftermath, says Allison Bernstein, marked a "new era in Indian affairs" and turned "American Indians" into "Indian Americans". [6]:159

Upon returning to the US after the war, some Native American servicemen and women suffered from PTSD and unemployment. Following the war, many Native Americans found themselves living in cities rather than on reservations. In 1940, only five percent of Native Americans lived in cities. By 1950, this number had ballooned to nearly 20 percent of Native Americans living in urban areas.[6]:153


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bernstein, Alison R (1986). Walking in Two Worlds: American Indians and World War Two (Dissertation). New York: Columbia University. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  2. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm. (June 5, 2014). "Chester Nez, last of the World War II Navajo 'code talkers,' dead at 93". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. ^ Melton, Brad; Smith, Dean (2003). Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines During World War II. University of Arizona Press. p. 71. ISBN 9780816521890. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Southwest Crossroads— Navajo Code Talkers". Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (2014-06-05). "Chester Nez, 93, Dies; Navajo Words Washed From Mouth Helped Win War". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  6. ^ a b Bernstein, Alison R. (1999). American Indians and World War II: Toward a New Era in Indian Affairs. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806131845. Retrieved 20 October 2017.

External links

This page was last edited on 28 December 2018, at 17:42
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