Native Americans 1950s-1970s



Native Americans joined the United States' call to fight Communism and participated in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Between 10,000 to 15,000 Native Americans served in the Korean War, while approximately 14,500 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War. Female Native Americans also enlisted to serve in this period such as Yeoman Second Class Verna Fender, USN, and Sergeant Frances E. Totsoni, USMC.

During the Vietnam War, Boatswain's Mate First Class James E. Williams, USN, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism on 31 October 1966 when his boat was taken under fire and faced a superior number of enemy vessels. Not thwarted, he led his men, and they sank 65 enemy craft and inflicted numerous casualties amongst the enemy. Another Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War is Engineman First Class Michael E. Thornton, USN, who bravely ran back into hostile fire to retrieve his fallen officer during a mission in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam on 31 October 1972.

During the mid-1970s, the U.S. Navy actively persued ethnic Americans. The recruiting posters and recruitment ads of the time reflected the U.S. Navy's desire to recruit Native Americans.

Continue here for Native Americans in the U.S. Navy 1980s - Present



Click the photograph for a larger image.

Photo #: NH 107220

Chief Petty Officer Guy M. Metoxen, USN

Halftone photograph from "All Hands" magazine, October 1951. Original caption reads, "Sea-going 'brave,' Guy M. Metoxen, a descendent of an Onieda tribal chief, makes chief in his own right."

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the "All Hands" collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Online Image: 219KB; 605 x 925

Photo #: NH 106758

Yeoman Second Class Verna Fender, USNR


Petty Officer Fender, a Native-American, served during the Korean War period and was trained at Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland. This picture was taken circa mid-1950s.

Courtesy of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph.

Online Image: 47KB; 480 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 107221

Chief Petty Officer John Lightning, USN

Halftone photograph from "All Hands" magazine, November 1961. Original caption reads, "John Lightning, USN, who is also Chief of a Canadian Indian tribe, receives his hard hat from his division officer."

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the "All Hands" collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Online Image: 297KB; 850 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 107218

Boatswain's Mate First Class James E. Williams, USN

A South Carolina Cherokee, Williams served as Boat Captain and Patrol Officer on board River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105 in Vietnam. On 31 October 1966, his boat was taken under fire and faced a superior number of enemy vessels, Williams led his men to sink 65 enemy craft and inflicted numerous casualties amongst the enemy. For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," he was awarded the Medal of Honor. On 13 October 1999, Williams died and is buried at Florence National Cemetery, Florence, South Carolina. USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) is named in his honor.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 92KB; 685 x 925

 
Photo #: 127-N-A372113

Private First Class Joseph Big Medicine Jr., USMC


Private First Class Joseph Big Medicine Jr., from the Cheyenne tribe, writes a letter to his family in the United States. He is a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, on a search, clear and destroy mission, seven miles east of the Marine Combat Base at An Hoa, 21 July 1969.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 114KB; 600 x 505

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: NH 107223

Sergeant Frances E. Totsoni, USMC


Sergeant Totsoni served from February 1972-January 1975.

Courtesy of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 155KB; 660 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 107219

Engineman First Class Michael E. Thornton, USN


Petty Officer Thornton, a South Carolina Cherokee, and his wife, Gladys, (center), are surrounded by his family and a close friend at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon, following a ceremony at the White House in which President Richard M. Nixon presented the Medal of Honor award to nine recipients. Thornton was the only Navy man to receive one at the ceremony. The family consists of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin G. Thornton and his brother, Mark. The friend is Lieutenant Tom Norse (also a Medal of Honor recipient), whose life Thornton saved on 31 October 1972 while on a mission in Vietnam.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 93KB; 900 x 655

 
Photo #: NH 107225-KN (Color)

"Native Americans on the Bridge"

This photograph was part of the Navy's mid-1970s recruitment program to recruit Americans of ethnic diversity. The helmsman and quartermaster in the picture are Native-Americans on board this unidentified ship.
Note: The original of this is a 1" x 1" film negative.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 95KB; 900 x 815

 
Photo #: NH 96403-KN (Color)

"Navy Heritage" Recruiting Poster

Artwork by Timothy Gaussiran, Recruiting Command employee, circa 1974.

Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 150KB; 605 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 96404-KN (Color)

"American Traditions" Recruiting Poster

Artwork by Timothy Gaussiran, Recruiting Command employee, circa 1974.

Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 95KB; 590 x 925

 
Photo #: NH 107222

Trademan Second Class Leslie Homeskye, USN


TD2 Homeskye, Chippewa tribe, works on a piece of equipment, mid-to-late 1970s.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 104KB; 900 x 630

 



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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