Amplifying Accomplishments of American Indians in World War II

Published: Jun 18 2020

A report prepared by the US Navy for the Department of Defense documents that "more than 40,000 American Indians left their reservations during World War II to serve in ordnance depots, factories, and battle fields. American Indians also invested more than $50 million in war bonds, and contributed generously to the Red Cross and the Army and Navy Relief societies." The Institute for American Studies reports that Native Americans had the highest ratio of service men of any ethnic minority or the white majority -- with 42% of the eligible adult Indian males serving in the war. Furthermore, 40 percent more Native Americans voluntarily enlisted than had been drafted.

Why, then, are there so few resources documenting Native Americans’ role in World War II’s European theatre? That’s what Bret Godfrey wanted to know. The son of a Naval officer and the member of the Potawatomi Tribe in Oklahoma, Bret wanted to teach the sacrifices made by his forefathers and those of many of his students at the American Indian Magnet in Saint Paul, MN. After finding no curriculum and no mention of American Indians’ WWII contributions in Minnesota’s social studies standards – Bret decided to create his own resources using a Fund for Teachers grant.