{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/folklife.php' }

Memoriam for a Code Talker: Joe Hosteen Kellwood

The following is a guest post by Owen Rogers, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP).

In second grade, I asked my teacher why American soldiers were fighting – and dying –in Somalia. Images of GIs slain in Bakaara Market clashed with the invincible G.I. Joes I carried in my knapsack, and in my doubt, I turned to the clarity of the “Greatest Generation.”

As a millennial, I can recall World War II veterans in the context of recent retirees and grandparents. As long as they were alive, we shared a living link to the past, but inevitably, we both grew older. By 2016, I’d like to say that I’ve acclimated to the obituaries of World War II veterans; that I’ve gotten used to the headlines announcing the recent death of a “Winnie” or GI. I haven’t.

Navajo Code Talker Joe Hosteen Kellwood shares his oral history with interviewers from the Navajo Code Talker’s Project.

Navajo Code Talker Joe Hosteen Kellwood shares his oral history with interviewers from the Navajo Code Talker’s Project.

The recent obituary of Joe Hosteen Kellwood, a Navajo Code Talker, felt particularly stirring. Among the duly celebrated World War II generation, American Indian service is a relatively recent addition to our popular memory. In 2001, a half-century after Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, these specialists received the Congressional Gold Medal and the National Native American Veterans Memorial remains in its planning stages.

Fortunately, “grass roots” interviewers have been busy, and the coverage afforded by community oral history projects gleaned many Tribal voices. In 2007, the Navajo Code Talker’s Project donated a series of narratives centered on the nuanced Code Talker experience of World War II. Overall, VHP features nearly 20 Code Talker oral history recordings, approximately 5% of the 400-strong cadre.

A familiar face – Walter Botts, the life model for "Uncle Sam," belonged to the Crow Nation.

A familiar face – Walter Botts, the life model for “Uncle Sam,” belonged to the Crow Nation.

Nevertheless, this sample scarcely reflects the overall service of American Indian World War II veterans. From 1941 through 1945, more than one in every eight indigenous persons served in uniform. Although VHP preserves almost 100 such narratives, as well as nearly 200 more from prior and subsequent conflicts, there are countless stories waiting to be told. Go to www.loc.gov/vets to find out how you can participate.

In the words of Maya Angelou,

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

3 Comments

  1. Pat Atkinson
    November 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Contact for Southern Paiute Veterans Association:
    http://www.sopva.com/home.shtml

  2. Pat Atkinson
    November 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    http://www.sopva.com

    Contact for the Southern Paiute Veterans Association

  3. Owen Rogers
    November 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing the contact information for the Southern Paiute Veterans Association, Pat. We’ll surely reach out to them in anticipation of our nascent Native Veterans Stories Archives Project with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.