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Tag: 1943

Minnie Spotted Wolf and the Marine Corps

Today’s blog post comes from Cody White, archivist at the National Archives in Denver.

Minnie Spotted Wolf, Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, accession 8NS-75-96-133 “Decimal Correspondence Files, 1913-57,” Box 63, ARC  7329402)

Minnie Spotted Wolf, Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, accession 8NS-75-96-133 “Decimal Correspondence Files, 1913-57,” Box 63, (National Archives Identifier 7329402)

It was 70 years ago this month that the first Native American woman, Minnie Spotted Wolf, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.

Born and raised on a ranch near White Tail Creek, about 15 miles from Heart Butte, Montana, Spotted Wolf stated that growing up doing such ranch work as “cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck, and breaking horses” seemed to prepare her for the rigors of Marine Corps boot camp, which she was quoted as saying was “hard, but not too hard.”

Spotted Wolf served for four years in the Marines as a heavy equipment operator as well as a driver for visiting general officers on bases in both Hawaii and California. After her discharge in 1947, Spotted Wolf returned to Montana. She married Robert England and attended college, earning a two-year degree in Elementary Education in 1955 and later a BS in Elementary Education in 1976. After a 29-year teaching career, Minnie Spotted Wolf passed away in 1988.

This service picture of Minnie Spotted Wolf is from the correspondence files from the Blackfeet Indian Agency (Record Group 75), where … [ Read all ]

Unbreakable: Remembering the Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, 12/1943 (ARC 593415)

Keith Hill passed away yesterday at the age of 87. He was  president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and Congressional Silver Medal recipient. At 17, he joined the Navajo Code Talkers, a group of men who used their Native American language to communicate and coordinate the movements of Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Hill started with the U .S. Marine Corps in December of 1943, and he fought at the Marshall Islands, Sai Pan, and Iwo Jima. Over 400 over Navajo Code Talkers also served.

Encryption could be a complicated and time-consuming task. A quicker and more secure means was needed.

Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary, had presented the idea of Navajo speakers to the Marines. He was a World War I vet who knew that the military was looking for a quick and secure way to send messages. Using speakers of a language that few outsiders ever heard—and that fewer than 30 outsiders spoke—seemed like a plausible solution.

Why Navajos? There were very, very few speakers of the Navajo language outside the tribe, with exception of a limited number of scholars and missionaries (Johnston estimated 28 people), so it was unlikely anyone else would recognize the langauge and be able to translate it. Even among other Indian tribals, the language was considered different.… [ Read all ]

The few, the proud, the letter-writers to the Marines

In 1943, you wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. In 2011, the National Archives  featured your letter on YouTube! How would you feel?

L. J. Weil feels pretty good, actually. “Wonderful!  It’s great to be honored this way,” he said when National Archives staff reached him at his home in Lousiana.

Weil’s letter to the President Roosevelt was sent in 1943, and 67 years later it was chosen to be featured as the demonstration model for the National Archives  new search engine.

What prompted Weil write to President Roosevelt? Weil was 10 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, an event he still clearly remembers. Two years later, it was 1943, and the United States was in midst of fighting World War II. Weil wanted to help.

He wrote to President Roosevelt, offering his services as a mascot. “I’m twelve years old and a little young to get into anything right now, but when I am a little older, well just you wait and see,” Weil wrote.

Weil did receive a reply but only received what he called a “brush off” from a Marine officer, who noted that there was no law about appointing official mascots. “The patriotic motive which prompted your office of service is appreciated, however, and hope that when you reach the required age of enlistment in the Marine Corps you will avail your self of the opportunity … [ Read all ]