Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Forgotten Heroes: From American Revolution to Vietnam

Christal Cooper – 897 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper

The Forgotten Heroes:
From the American Revolution to Vietnam

         Whenever we think of the typical veteran we envision a white male with a high school education in a middle class blue-collar family.  People fail to realize that another group of people sacrificed as much, if not more, in order to aid the United States in maintaining their soverienty.  Native Americans not only enlisted in the military, but they had to fight their own government for the right to defend a country that was originally theirs long before the European influence arrived.

  Why would a group of people want to fight for a government that violated their whole race, took away their land and freedom?  German Minister Propaganda Josef Paul Goebbels felt the same way.  In fact, he was so certain that the Native Americans would never side with the United States, that in 1941, he predicted the Native Americans would revolt against the United States on behalf of Nazi Germany.  He couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  Native Americans joined the military with a one hundred per cent registration rate, which has set the standard for America.

         The Native American desiring to serve his and her country was not new in World War II.  The Native Americans aided the United States in its wars as far back as the American Revolution when the Creeks and Cherokees helped the colonials in defeating the English. 

From the 1860s to the 1880s the United States Army used the Crow, Pawnee, and Apache as scouts in battle against the Plains Tribes.  Native Americas were also recruited in the Civil War by both sides in very large numbers.  

In 1898, Native Americans fought with the United States in the Spanish-American War.  During World War I, over 12,000 Native Americans, 85% of them volunteers, served in the military forces.

Oklahoma Congressman Jed Joseph Johnson, who served with the American Indians in World War I as a private said, “I served with many full-blood Indians and part-Indians during World War I in France.  I saw them in action in the front lines and I was deeply impressed with their valor and courage.  There were no better or braver soldier than were the American Indians.”

Soon, the Native Americans enlisted the aid of Indian Affairs Commissioner John Collier when they were denied entry into the military due to lack of education and lack of ability to understand the English language.  In other words, the Native Americans were being discriminated by the process of registration. 

By October 1941, the registration process for the Native American had slightly improved.  At that time 1,785 Native Americans were in the armed forces. 

The Navajo tribe, who were described as being intelligent and having the strong desire to serve their country, were denied registration due to their 85% population illiteracy rate.  The Selective Service promised that the Navajo would no longer be rejected, but no action had been taken for a year.  Finally, the War Department agreed to locate former Indian Service personnel and assign them to literacy training of the Navajo people.  The Army Air Force instituted a literacy program from 1942-1943 in New Jersey. 

The Navajo, despite the fact that they claimed a large rejection rate of forty-five percent, responded to the nation’s need by sending 3000 people, six percent of their population, into the military service.

         Indians were so hungry to fight on behalf of the United States that when the Alaska registration draft occurred, Eskimos (Siberian Yupiks, or Yuits) from the Soviet Union came to register to the American Army.  They were tactfully denied and told that they must enlist in the Russian Army instead.

         Over 5000 Native Americans enrolled in the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the National Guard prior to Pearl Harbor.  After World War II was declared by the United States, 800 Navajo men out of 3,600 enlisted in one day.  One fourth of the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico enlisted.  Wisconsin Chippewa at the Lac Oreilles Reservation contributed one hundred men from the population of 1700.  The enlistment of the Native American population had reached an all time high of 22,000 in 1945.  After the war ended the Indian Bureau officials stated that 24,521 American Indians not including officers served in the armed forces, and another 20,000 off-reservation Indians also had enlisted, which combined to be a total figure of 44,500, comprising more than 10% of the Native American population of 400,000. 

         Native Americans had many reasons for desiring to serve in the military, which included earning better pay to escape a poverty situation to being honored by their tribe for bravery.  The most stated reason by the Native American was due to patriotism. 

Raymond Nakai, ex-Navajo Code Talker, stated that the reason why Indians entered the war is due to patriotism:  “We are proud to be American Indians.  We always stand when our country needs us.”

         More than 80% of the Native Americans who are Vietnam Veterans saw some type of combat duty by being assigned military occupations that almost guaranteed their direct participation in battle.  

     Native American Veterans, especially Vietnam Veterans are not recognized for their service except by their own people.  During Vietnam, the Native Americans fought in numbers exceeding their proportional population.  At the time of the war the Native Americans made up less than 1% of the Vietnam troops.  

Writer Jere Bishop Franco says it best: “Indians had become one of America’s greatest weapons.”


Photo 1.
Pencil sketch of Joseph Louis Cook, who was an Iroquois leader and soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  Attributed to John Trumbull.  Public Domain.

Photo 2.
Guyasuta probably served as a scout for young George Washington in 1753.  Public Domain.

Photo 3.
Ely S. Parker was a Union Civil War General who wrote the terms of surrender between the United States and the Confederate States of America.  Parker was one of two Native Americans to reach the rank of Brigadier General during the Civil War.  Public Domain.

Photo 4.
Native Americans being sworn in for the Civil War.  Public Domain.

Photo 5.     
Stand Watie was the only Indian with the rank of general in the Confederate Army.  Public Domain.

Photo 6.
Oklahoma Representative Jed Joseph Johnson.  Public Domain.

Photo 7.
Left to right: Senator Elmer Thomas, Chairman of the Committee; Claude M. Hirst, Director of the Office of Indian affairs in Alaska; and John Collier, U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs on February 7, 1937.  Atrributed to Harris & Ewing.  Library of Congress photo.  Public Domain.

Photo 8.  
WW I Choctow paitent.  .  Attributed to U.S. National Library of Medicine Public Domain.

Photo 9.
En route to Okinawa, PFC Joe Hosteen Kelwood of Steamboat Canyon, Ganado, Arizona; Pvt Floyd Saupitty of Lawton, Oklahoma (a Comanche); and PFC Alex Williams of Red Lake, Leupp, Arizona. Between 400-500 Native American “code talkers” served in the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater. Their job was primarily to transmit secret tactical messages by using a coded language. This coded language was built upon their native languages and sent over military telephone or radios.  Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections.

Photo 10.
Choctow Code Talkers.  Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.  Public Domain.

Photo 11.
Navajo Code Talkers.  Attributed to an employee of the U.S. Navy working on behalf of the U.S. government.  Public Domain.

Photo 12.
Siberian Yupiks, or Yuits, are indigenous people who reside along the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula in the far northeast of the Russian Federation and on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. They speak Central Siberian Yupik (also known as Yuit), a Yupik language of the Eskimo–Aleut family of languages.  Russia:  Public Domain.

Photo 13.
General Douglas MacArthur , Commander-in-Chief, standing with representatives of five Native American Indian tribes in one United States Army unit.   From left to right:  Sgt. Virgin Bronw (Pima);  Sgt Virgil P Howe (Pawnee); Sgt Alvin Vilcan (Chitmatcha); General MacArthur; Sgt. Byron L Tsignine (Navajo); and Sgt Larry Dekin (Navajo).  Janury 3, 1944.  United Staes Corps Photo.   Public Domain.

Photo 14.
American Indian women too have joined the fighting forces against Germany and Japan. These three are members of the U.S. Marine Corps. They are [left to right] Minnie Spotted Wolf of the Blackfeet, Celia Mix, Potawatomi, and Violet Eastman, Chippewa.  October 16, 1943 in Camp Lejeune, North CarolinaNational Archives and Records Administration.  Public Domain.

Photo 15.
Raymond Nakai

Photo 16.
Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, was a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Red Cloud died holding back a surprise onslaught of enemy forces, giving his company time to prepare its defenses. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous action in battle.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Public Domain.

Photo 17.
Billy Walkabout.  Vietnam Veteran. 

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