World War II and the American Indian

World War II and the American Indian

World War II and the American Indian

World War II and the American Indian

Synopsis

The first full ethnohistory of American Indian responses to, & participation in, World War II; beginning with the drift toward war in the 1930s, including their reactions to propaganda campaigns directed at them by Nazi sympathizers.

Excerpt

As the train chugged from the station, Corporal Virgil Wyaco peered through the passenger car window at the urban landscape of New York City, and within a short time even the tallest building was but a faint sight. For the next three days, the train rumbled over the lush, green summer countryside of Pennsylvania, past Midwestern farmlands that brimmed with crops nearly ready for harvesting, and crossed the parched prairies of the lower Great Plains to Fort Bliss in Texas. Wyaco studied the nation that only one year earlier sent him to war in Europe. He viewed a natural beauty that consoled his heart and surveyed a population whose prosperity was unmistakable--both images conflicting eerily with the sights and sounds of war now lodged in his memory. He had fought the Germans along the Ziegfried Line east of Metz, jumped the Saar River, battled the enemy in Bastogne, crossed the Rhine into Germany under heavy fire, witnessed the destruction of Stuttgart and Frankfurt, and participated in the liberation of Jewish prisoners at Dachau, just outside Munich. The suffering and death he encountered in less than twelve months defied understanding. Now, the veteran was returning home to Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico.

The war drew Virgil Wyaco,into a brotherhood of men forever shaped by their overseas experiences and plagued by their haunting memories of combat. In battle, he, like his comrades, had fought not for political ideals or patriotism but for self-survival, for the lives of his fellow soldiers, and, in some instances, for revenge. He knew that in close combat he personally took the lives of several German soldiers, but he also knew that he was probably responsible for the deaths of many more Germans. The corporal admitted openly his role in the execution of captured soldiers. Despite the numerous bodies he stepped over in battle, "I'd seen nothing like Dachau," he recalled. "There were dead people piled everywhere, sometimes in neat rows the way Germans like things, sometimes all twisted.... [They] looked like juniper firewood just unloaded from a pickup truck, no more human than that, all naked and skinny.... And . . .

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