Native American's in Wwii Essay

Submitted By joeythomson
Words: 1524
Pages: 7

Native Americans Bear Arms During World War II
ENGL 129

On December 7, 1944, America was forced into the Second World War due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt then called for a draft to support the war effort in Europe and in the Pacific. Over sixteen million Americans served during World War II, many of which were enlisted under the Selective Service Act; however, a certain population of the American people volunteered at a higher rate than all the rest. Native Americans rose to the occasion following America’s entry into World War II, with 44,000 serving in the armed forces—over ten percent as volunteers. During World War II, Native Americans fought in both theatres of war (European and Pacific), yet their contributions have often gone unnoticed. More specifically, the code talkers or “wind talkers”, who were primarily of Navajo descent, played a pivotal role in supporting Allied operations in the Pacific and have never truly been given the credit they deserve. The Native American war response following Pearl Harbor was very surprising, partially due to the tensions that were present because of policies set by the federal government. Before the start of World War II, Native Americans suffered from tight government supervision on their own lands and reservations. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1933, he pledged to change the ever stagnant economic, educational, and health situations that most Native tribes had been experiencing for some time. “From 1887 to 1920 because of the allotment policy, sales of surplus land, and sales of Indian-owned land to white owners, Indians lost ninety million acres or sixty-two percent of their best land” (Franco 104). President Roosevelt recognized the multitude of issues that were burdening the Native population and he hoped to create a federal government that would play a larger role in regulating the entire U.S. economy. Under Roosevelt’s presidency, John Collier was appointed commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Indian Reorganization act was put into play in 1934. This act ultimately reversed the Dawes Act by “ending land allotments in severalty, returning surplus land to tribal ownership, buying additional lands for tribes, encouraging tribal self-government and improving economic conditions” (Franco 112). This act helped to improve the relationship between the Native Americans and the federal government and can be linked to a possible cause to the positive Native response during World War II. Generally not known, the Nazi Germany propaganda effort tried to infiltrate the Native American population. Josef Paul Goebbels, Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, highly underestimated the Native response to a declaration of war. He predicted “that Indians would rather revolt against the United States than fight against Germany which had promised to return their expropriated land to them” (Franco 138). However, Native Americans understood the need to defend one’s own land, which resulted in their strong patriotic response. The improvements under Commissioner Collier’s administration also appeared to create the sentiment that participation in the war for Native Americans could be a “catalyst for entry into white society” (Townsend 131). Following Pearl Harbor, the induction rate nearly doubled from twenty to forty percent and “Indian compliance with the draft appeared so positive that Commissioner Collier claimed nearly 100 percent cooperation among eligible men” (Franco 134 ). Upon America’s entry into World War II, Native Americans found themselves playing a very important role. Thousands of Natives from across the country found themselves working in factories supporting the war effort, but the most pivotal role was evident in the Pacific Theatre. As the lead armed forces group in the Pacific, the United States Marine Corps stumbled across a major communication problem. The Japanese were intercepting American radio