By Roy Cook
On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, there were 5,000 Indians in the military. By the end of the war, 24,521 reservation Indians, exclusive of officers, and another 20,000 off-reservation Indians had served. The combined figure of 44,500 was more than ten percent of the entire male, female and children Native American population during the war years. This represented one-third of all able-bodied Indian men from 18 to 50 years of age. In some tribes, the percentage of men in the military reached as high as 70 percent. Also, several hundred Indian women served in the WACS, WAVES, and Army Nurse Corps.
Southern California American Indian Resource Inc. SCAIR reflects on this Warrior tradition and commitment to defend this Indian land. We are mindful of the courage demonstrated by our Cherokee and other Tribal Brothers in arms during WW II and all military conflicts.
In World War II over 44,500 American Indians fought against the Axis forces in both European and Pacific theaters of war. These Native Americans compiled a distinguished record of courage and sacrifice. Those in the Army Air Forces saw duty as pilots, navigators, gunners, bombardiers, and transport crews in all theaters of the war. Of those Indians in the Army Air Force, the Office of Indian Affairs reported in November 1945 that 71 Indians received the Air Medal, 51 the Silver Star, 47 the Bronze Star, 34 won the Distinguished Flying Cross, and six received the US Congressional Medal of Honor.
BARFOOT, VAN T, Choctaw.
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, US Army, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Carano, Italy, 23 May 1944. Entered service at: Carthage, Miss. Birth: Edinburg, Miss. G.O. No.: 79, 4 October 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy.
BOYINGTON, GREG, Coeur d’Alene
Rank: Colonel, USMC, ‘Pappy’ Boyington’s stories are legion, many founded in fact, including how he led the legendary Black Sheep squadron, and how he served in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, Flying Tigers. He spent a year and a half as a Japanese POW, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and was recognized as the Marine Corps top ace.
CHILDERS, ERNEST, Creek
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, US Army, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: At Oliveto, Italy, 22 September 1943. Entered service at: Tulsa, Okla. Birth: Broken Arrow, Okla. G.O. No.: 30, 8 April 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action on 22 September 1943, at Oliveto, Italy.
EVANS, ERNEST EDWIN, Cherokee
Rank and organization: Commander, US Navy. Born: 13 August 1908, Pawnee, Okla. Accredited to: Oklahoma. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Bronze Star Medal. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Johnston in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar on 25 October 1944.
HARMON, ROY W, Cherokee
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 362d Infantry, 91st Infantry Division. Near Casaglia, Italy, 12 July 1944. From Talala, Oklahoma. Sgt. Harmon’s extraordinary heroism, gallantry, and self-sacrifice saved a platoon from being wiped out, and made it possible for his company to advance against powerful enemy resistance.
MONTGOMERY, JACK C. Cherokee
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, US Army, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near, Padiglione, Italy, 22 February 1944. Entered service at: Sallisaw, Okla. Birth: Long, Okla. G.O. No.: 5, 15 January 1945.
All American Indian Veterans of military service and most Americans are both humbled and proud of the courageous service of these brothers in arms. It brings a lump to ones throat to meet a living recipient of the MOH. Left: American Indian Warriors Association members and Lt John Flynn, US Navy Pearl Harbor survivor and MOH recipient at Alpine, CA. 2005.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Sunday, December 7, 1941
Above — Aboard a Japanese carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor, crew members cheer departing pilots. Below — A photo taken from a Japanese plane during the attack shows vulnerable American battleships, and in the distance, smoke rising from Hickam Airfield where 35 men having breakfast in the mess hall were killed after a direct bomb hit.
Above — The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese air raid. Below Left — The battleship USS Arizona after a bomb penetrated into the forward magazine causing massive explosions and killing 1,104 men. Below Right — Dousing the flames on the battleship USS West Virginia, which survived and was rebuilt. (Photo credits: U.S. National Archives)
American Indian WW II Chronology:
Oct 1940 - Congress passes Nationalities Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans without impairing tribal authority or sovereignty.
- - For the first time, American Indians register for the draft.
Jan 1941- The Fourth Signal Company recruits thirty Oklahoma Comanche Indians to be part of a special Signal Corps Detachment.
Oct 1940- The armed forces have inducted 1,785 Native Americans.
Dec 1941- There are 5,000 Native Americans in the armed forces when Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor.
Jan 1942 – According to Selective Service officials, 99 percent of all eligible Native Americans had registered for the draft. This astounding response set the national standard for the USA.
Jan 1942 - The Navajo Tribal Council calls a special convention to dramatize their support for the war effort; 50,000 attend.
Jul 1 942 - The Six Nations (Mohawks, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, 1942 and Iroquois) declare war on the Axis Powers.
1942-1943- The Army Air Corps runs a literacy program in Atlantic City, N.J., for Native Americans who could not meet military literacy standards.
Apr 1943- Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes announces that Indians have bought $12.6 million in war bonds.
1944 - Over 46,000 Indian men and women have left their reservations for defense-related jobs.
Nov 1944- fifty tribes establish the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Denver, Colorado.
Jan 1945- John Collier resigns as Indian Commissioner after years of political controversy.
1946- The Truman Commission on Civil Right urges more humanitarian consideration for Native Americans.
- -Indian Claims Commission Act created by Congress to adjudicate Indian land claims in the aftermath of WWII.
1947 - Army Indian Scouts formed 28 July 1866 are discontinued as a separate element of the U.S. armed forces. 1942 1st Special Service Force formed in tradition of Indian scouts with their Crossed Arrows incorporated into the Special operations insignia.
- They had last been used on border patrol duties in Arizona.
1957 - Utah permits Indians to vote.
1962 - Since voting procedures are delegated to the states, some states misused this power to continue to deny Native Americans the right to vote. For example, as late as 1962, New Mexico still overtly prohibited Native Americans from voting.
1970 - Even after Indians were granted citizenship in 1924, the right to vote was not extended to Arizona Indians until 1948, and English literacy tests prevented most Indians from participating in elections until 1970.
America, home of the brave- for sure. Home of the free, sometimes.