American Indians •  History and Military

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World War II and the American Indian

Kenneth Townsend

World War II marked a crossroads for Native Americans. Twenty-five thousand served in America's armed forces and forty thousand--including many Native American women employed in defense industries--secured jobs on the home front. The war years divided their past from their future, providing some with the skills and opportunities to enter mainstream society. For other Native Americans, wartime experiences affirmed the value of a renewed, reinvigorated Indian identity apart from the dominant society.
This book is the first full account of Native American experiences from the 1930s to 1945 and the first to offer the Indians' perspective. It begins with their responses to the drift toward war in the 1930s, including their reactions to propaganda campaigns directed at them by Nazi sympathizers. It is also the only ethnohistory of their experiences during World War II. Included are the voices and recollections of Indian men who resisted the draft, of those who fought in Europe and the Pacific, and of Indian women on the homefront. The book is also a careful reinterpretation of John Collier's career as commissioner of Indian affairs during the Roosevelt years. Townsend argues that Collier's efforts to preserve traditional Native American lifeways inadvertently provided Indians the resources, training, and services necessary for assimilation in the post-war years.


Kenneth William Townsend is a specialist in twentieth-century American history and the author of studies on the 1930s and World War II. He teaches at Coastal Carolina University.


"This painstakingly researched book should be required reading for every student majoring in American history as well as by everyone interested in the country's past."


The Chronicles of Oklahoma

"If you read one history book in your entire life, read this one. . . . Townsend is thorough, balanced, and aware . . . he's inclusive and insightful, and refreshingly concise. . . . there's little room to either criticize him or express his sentiments any more persuasively."


The New Mexican, Santa Fe

"(Townsend) reveals every aspect of Indian involvement. . . . World War II and the American Indian is quintessential history. It is at once impeccably researched, highly interpretive, and beautifully written. This is not simply a book for students of the military or of Native Americans but rather for anyone who loves a provocative examination of our past."


Utah Historical Quarterly

"This outstanding analysis delivers more than its title promises."


MultiCultural Review

". . .provides useful background on the social and political status of Indians during the first half of the twentieth century."


The New York Military Affairs Symposium Newsletter

"In World War II and the American Indian, Kenneth Townsend provides a cogent and insightful study into Indian groups and individuals from the rise of the Indian Reorganization Act through post-war years."


Indigenous Nations Studies Journal

"This is the most comprehensive history of American Indians during the war years to appear in over a decade."


American Historical Review

"Professor Townsend makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the pivotal issues faced by Native Americans in the 20th century."


Journal of the West

6.13 x 9.25 in. 288 pages 22 halftones