Native Americans - Early Twentieth Century
World War II



At the birth of our nation, Native Americans served on a wide-range of Continental vessels against the British. This service continued with the War of 1812; and when the Civil War waged the South against the North, Native Americans served on both sides as auxiliary forces. During the early Twentieth Century, Native Americans joined the U.S. Navy, such as the Snow Brothers, who were from the Seneca tribe and enlisted as seaman. In World War I, over 12,000 Native Americans entered the Armed Forces to fight the war. Noteworthy during this time was Joseph J. Clark, USN, who became the first Native American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917, and was the first Native American to attain the rank of full Admiral upon his retirement in 1953.

After the United States' entry into World War II, more than 44,000 Native Americans served with distinction in the European and Pacific Theaters. Some of the Native Americans were officers, such as Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Boyington, USMC, who was shot down in January 1944 after shooting down 26 Japanese enemy aircraft and was taken as a Prisoner of War. Upon his release, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. Another Native American Medal of Honor recipient, Commander Ernest E. Evans, USN, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle off Samar while commanding USS Johnston (DD-557) on 25 October 1944. The Iwo Jima Operation saw Native Americans serve with distinction as Private First Class Wesley Eagle received the Navy Cross for his heroism. The battle is also noteworthy for Private First Class Ira H. Hayes, USMC, who was one of the flag-raisers for the iconic "Flag Raising on Iwo Jima."

The Photographic Section does not have photographic images of Native Americans that pre-date those shown.

Continue here for Native Americans in the U.S. Navy - Navajo Code Talkers



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Photo #: Smithsonian 62-3200

Seaman William W. Snow, USN

Photographed circa 1904. Snow belonged to the Seneca tribe and served on board the Presidential yacht, USS Mayflower, in 1905. His brother Albert W. Snow also served in the United States Navy.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Institution Photograph.

Online Image: 49KB; 555 x 765

 
Photo #: Smithsonian 62-3400

Seaman Albert W. Snow, USN

Photographed circa 1904. Snow belonged to the Seneca tribe and served on board the torpedo boat USS Worden during this time. His brother William W. Snow also served in the United States Navy.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian Institution Photograph.

Online Image: 46KB; 565 x 765

 
Photo #: 75-N-WINN-1

Seaman Russell DeCora, USN


Seaman DeCora salutes while on board an unidentified ship, June 1942. DeCora was from the Winnebago Tribe.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.

Online Image: 76KB; 900 x 715

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 75-N-PIM-33

Private First Class Ira H. Hayes, USMC


Private First Class Hayes, USMC, a Pima Native American, is shown at the age of 19. He is ready to jump at Marine Corps Paratroop School. Hayes was one of the four Marines in the Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph. Photographed circa 1943.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.

Online Image: 79KB; 740 x 635

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: 208-NS-4350-2

Three Native American Marine Corps Women Reservists


The Native American Marine Corps Women Reservists are pictured at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The Women Marines are:
(left to right)
Minnie Spotted Wolf (Blackfoot Tribe),
Celia Mix (Potawatomi Tribe), and
Viola Eastman (Chippewa Tribe)
Photographed 16 October 1943.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.

Online Image: 82KB; 580 x 765

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: NH 93596

Major Gregory Boyington, USMCR


Shown in flight-gear while he was the Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron Two Hundred and Fourteen (VMF-214), circa 1943-1944. On 3 January 1944, while on a night mission over Rabaul, Boyington was shot down and picked up by a Japanese submarine. He spent the next twenty months as a prisoner of war. While in captivity Boyington was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. After the Japanese capitulation in August 1945, he was released from the Omori Prison Camp near Tokyo, Japan and returned to the United States. In recognition of his "extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty" while in command of VMF-214, Lieutenant Colonel Boyington was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in October 1945 White House ceremonies.

Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Collection.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 41KB; 580 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 107237

Commander Ernest E. Evans, USN


On 25 October 1944, during the Battle off Samar, Evans led USS Johnston (DD-557) and her crew in an attack on a greatly superior Japanese battleship and cruiser force. In this action, which contributed to the defeat of the Japanese counter-offensive against the Leyte invasion, Commander Evans and his ship were lost. Ernest E. Evans was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Battle off Samar.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 133KB; 630 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 107230

Private First Class Wesley Eagle, USMCR

Halftone reproduction of a photograph from "All Hands", circa 1945.
Eagle was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his "extraordinary heroism" during the Iwo Jima Campaign. On 10 March 1945, while under an intense Japanese enemy attack, he eventually became the sole remaining Browning Unit Rifleman from his unit able to counter the fire. Refusing to leave his gun, though wounded, he remained until all of his fallen comrades were evacuated. Wounded numerous times while providing cover, Eagle eventually succumbed to his wounds. Private First Class Eagle was from the Chippewa tribe.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 163KB; 779 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 107235

Seaman James Redday, USN

Halftone reproduction of a photograph from the publication "Indians at War", circa 1945.
Redday served on board submarines during World War II. The submarine he served on sank 14 and damaged seven enemy vessels. During his time in the Navy, he was transferred the Veteran's Hospital at Minneapolis due to tuberculosis, which improved in the fresh air of his homeland.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 120KB; 660 x 925

 
Photo #: 80-G-402229

Rear Admiral Joseph J. Clark, USN

(Commander Carrier Division Four)

On the bridge of USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) during operations in the Mediterranean Sea, 21 February 1949.
Photographed by AF2C Dalton. Clark was the first Native American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, 1917, and was the first Native American to attain the rank of full Admiral upon his retirement in 1953.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 143KB; 730 x 925

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 



For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.





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