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MacDill celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month

Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute poster

U.S. Army Lieutenant Van T. Barfoot, a Choctaw Indian and recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. In May 1944, then Technical Sergeant Barfoot, at the age of 25, set out alone to flank German machine gun positions and stop enemy bullets that were killing his fellow soldiers. He advanced through a minefield and took out three enemy machine gun emplacements with hand grenades. As German tank crew members dismounted from their disabled tank, Sergeant Barfoot killed three of the German soldiers outright with his tommy gun. He then continued further into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. Returning to his platoon he assisted two of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Barfoot is credited with capturing and bringing back 17 German prisoners of war to his platoon position that day. Barfoot was subsequently commissioned a U.S. Army second lieutenant in the infantry. (Graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute poster

Seaman Mark Jacobs Jr. and Harvey Jacobs, brothers and Alaskan Tlingit members from Sitka, who served in the U.S. Navy as code talkers. In 2019, five long-deceased Alaska Native service members were hailed by the state of Alaska for their life-saving efforts during World War II. Until recent years, however, the men’s contributions were unknown. “Their orders were not to talk about it,” said Ozzie Sheakley, an Army veteran and Tlingit leader. “They took those orders seriously.” Alaska lawmakers passed a formal citation honoring the Tlingit men for using their Native language to help the military outsmart the Japanese with codes they could not break. (Graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute poster

Mary G. Ross, a civilian mathematician and engineer working on the home front. In 1942, Lockheed Aircraft Company in California hired Ross as a mathematician. With two degrees in mathematics, she was among the many women hired to fill a role, traditionally held by men, while the men were away serving in the military during World War II. The company sent her to the University of California Los Angeles to get her professional certification in engineering; she became the first Native American woman and female engineer in Lockheed’s history. Ross became was one of the 40 founding engineers of the renowned and highly secretive Skunk Works project. Ross worked on designing fighters, to include the famed P-38 Lightning fighter, large planes, first evolution jets, and later rockets. Unlike many other women, who were forced out of their jobs as men returned from the war, Ross continued working for Lockheed until her retirement in 1973. In 2018, Ross was chosen to be depicted on the 2019 Native American $1 coin by the U.S. Mint celebrating American Indians in the space program. (Graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

National American Indian Heritage Month poster

From November 1-30, the Department of Defense and MacDill AFB joins the nation in observing and celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month. The observance month recognizes American Indians for their respect for natural resources and the Earth, having served with valor in our nation's conflicts and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States. This year the standard theme is in support of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s efforts to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II. This year’s theme is “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.” In 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act. In 1986, Congress passed a law and President Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation authorizing American Indian Week. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month. (Graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

From Nov. 1-30, the Department of Defense and MacDill AFB joins the nation in observing and celebrating National American Indian Heritage Month.

The observance month recognizes American Indians for their respect for natural resources and the Earth, having served with valor in our nation's conflicts and for their many distinct and important contributions to the United States.

This year the standard theme is in support of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s efforts to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II. This year’s theme is “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.”

In 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act. In 1986, Congress passed a law and President Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation authorizing American Indian Week. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month.

After 100 years of efforts to recognize American Indians, National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is celebrated to recognize native cultures and educate the public about the heritage, history, art, and traditions of the American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

American Indians and Alaska Natives served in large numbers after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Forty-four thousand from a total Native American population of 350,000 saw active duty. Over 6,000 Alaska Natives served in the Alaska Territorial Guard.

In addition to the large number of men who took part in the war, many Native American women served in the Armed Forces as members of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), WACS (Women Army Corps), and Army Nurse Corps.

On the home front, an estimated 40,000 American Indian men and women sought to serve their country, and they left their reservations to seek jobs in the defense industry. Additionally, many bought treasury stamps and war bonds and donated to the Red Cross. It is estimated American Indians bought approximately $50 million in war bonds.

Navajo code talkers have been recognized for the crucial part they played in World War II. Until recently, no one knew that Alaskan Tlingit code talkers used the Tlingit language in transmitting sensitive messages as well and was another code that the enemy was never able to crack. Even the families of the Tlingit code talkers did not know of their secret service.

One of America’s most acclaimed World War II combat units was the 45th Infantry Division, known as the Thunderbirds for their distinctive insignia. This unit experienced 511 days of combat and fought at Salerno, Anzio, St. Maxine, and the Alsace. They crossed the Rhine, helped take Munich and liberated the Nazis’ infamous Dachau death camp.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives played an important role in the United States Armed Forces during World War II. They served bravely and with distinction from the initial attack on Pearl Harbor to the last days of the Pacific campaign.

The nation remains forever indebted to World War II veterans, who not only forever changed the course of history, but who demonstrated selfless service and sacrifice in defense of global peace and security.

We remember their legacy by Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.