Veterans Day: Native Soldiers Recall World War II Service in Book and Documentary


A whopping 90 percent of men from the Yurok Reservation went overseas during World Wars I and II, serving everywhere from Italy to Iwo Jima.

This is just one interesting fact from The Original Patriots: Northern California Indian Veterans of World War Two by Chag Lowry, Yurok/Maidu/Pit River, who interviewed 60 Native veterans to create the 270-page, self-published work in 2007. The book is also a documentary that aired on PBS in September 2007, co-produced and co-directed by Chag Lowry and Sam Greene.

The book contains many other interesting revelations, such as the role of women in the war effort. “There are also records of Yurok women, such as Aawok Dee Rouse, who participated in the war effort,” said the Yurok Tribe in a media release leading up to Veterans Day. “Despite the tremendous hardships Yuroks and other Native Americans faced during that time period, many sacrificed everything to protect their homeland. At least seven were killed in action, according to research Lowry conducted for his book.”

RELATED: May I Suggest ... 'The Original Patriots,' by Chag Lowry

As tribes across the U.S., including California, honored their veterans on November 11, the Yurok commemorative ceremony included a book signing by Lowry. Besides the interviews, the book outlines the participation of American Indians in World War II, along with an account of the boarding schools that many were sent to as children, the Yurok said in a statement. Three WWII American Indian veterans whose stories are enshrined in the book will accompany Lowry, the tribe said.

“Hundreds of local Tribal people served in both World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, Korean War and in the current conflicts in the Middle East,” the Yurok said in their statement. “Per capita, more Native Americans serve in the military than any other ethnic group, according to statistics compiled by the US Department of Defense.”

In fact, the war nearly made it to Yurok territory on September 21, 1942, when a Japanese submarine succeeded in landing bombs just 40 miles north of the reservation, the tribe said. The reservation became the site of early-warning radar facilities set up by the U.S. government to monitor against just such attacks, the Yurok said.

“Yurok people, historically and today, feel a deep connection and appreciation for this place and will do anything necessary to protect it,” the tribe said. “That is why so many served and continue to serve in the armed forces.”

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