Native Americans in the Korean War

American Indians have served with distinction in United States military actions for over 200 years. During World War II, more than 44,000 American Indians, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, saw military service. A few years later, many of these seasoned troops and officers transferred their fighting skills to

World War II
RADM Joseph J. "Jocko" Clark, Cherokee, the first Native American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.

the Korean Peninsula, where new recruits joined them in the fight against communist aggression.

"Cherokee Strikes" Boost Morale

Vice Admiral Joseph J. "Jocko" Clark, the last commander of the Navy's 7th Fleet during the Korean War and a Cherokee descendent, became famous for his self-proclaimed "Cherokee Strikes." In late 1952, Clark, a veteran of two world wars, concentrated his fleet's efforts on the destruction of enemy weapons and supplies behind enemy lines. For these raids, Clark deployed his Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based aircraft and land-based Air Force and foreign planes. While not particularly devastating to enemy supply lines, the Cherokee Strikes served as a much-needed morale boost for American frontline troops.

Army Soldiers Serve HeroicallyMajor General Hal L. Muldrow Jr., a Choctaw, commanded the Division Artillery, 45th Infantry Division from Dec. 10, 1951, to May 22, 1952. Colonel, and later Brigadier General, Otwa Autry of the Creek Nation commanded the 189th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division until May 1952. The 189th delivered some of the heaviest artillery fire during the battles for Hills 191(T-Bone Ridge) and 275 (Old Baldy) during the summer of 1952.

Sergeant First Class William Stewart, a Crow, also saw action with the 45th Infantry Division. He was wounded during the battle for Christmas Hill. Private First Class Clarence J. Marcellais, a Chippewa, landed at Pusan in July 1950 with the Army's 24th Infantry Division. Marcellais was wounded by a mortar shell when the North Koreans tried to overrun an artillery battery near the Naktong River. Less than a year later, while on patrol near Chipyong-ni, he was hit in the left leg by sniper fire, and the leg had to be amputated at the knee. Private First Class Jerome Adams, a Devil's Lake Sioux, served with the Army's 2d Infantry Division. He was evacuated after receiving gunshot wounds in the back, chest and arms and also shrapnel wounds in his legs.

Nighthorse Campbell
Nighthorse Campbell

Ben Nighthorse Campbell

One young recruit who joined the military during the Korean conflict was Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Cheyenne, who, in 1987, became the first American Indian to serve in Congress since 1929. The 18-year-old Campbell joined the Air Force in 1951. He was transferred to an Air Force police unit and shipped to Korea. Campbell never saw combat first-hand, but he vividly remembers the horrors he saw there, especially the suffering of Korean children. But Campbell also recalls the benefits of service in the military, writing, "There was a camaraderie [in the Air Force] that transcends ethnicity when you serve your country overseas in wartime."

Campbell was elected to the Colorado State Legislature in November 1982 and from there went to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1987 through 1992. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

Native American Medal of Honor Recipients from the Korean War

The warrior tradition of overpowering the enemy and facing death head-on accurately describes the heroic actions of the three Native Americans awarded the Medal of Honor during the Korean War. These two soldiers and one officer faced the enemy bravely and through their heroism saved the lives of their fellow servicemen.


Red Cloud
Red Cloud

Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud Jr.

"The son of a Winnebago chief and warriors who believe that when a man goes into battle, he expects to kill or be killed and if he dies he will live forever." These are the words inscribed on the monument erected in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and dedicated to the memory of Korean War hero Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., the first Winnebago to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Corporal Red Cloud, a member of Company E, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery during an attack by communist forces near Chonghyon, South Korea, on Nov. 5, 1950. According to an eyewitness account, Company E was alerted to the surprise enemy attack by a shouted warning from Corporal Red Cloud, who was on a ridge guarding his company's command post. He immediately opened fire with his automatic rifle on the advancing enemy troops. Despite being severely wounded, Red Cloud held his ground, using a tree to give himself the support needed to continue firing. He refused help and continued to fire until he was fatally wounded. His valiant actions checked the enemy assault and allowed his company to consolidate its position and evacuate the wounded.

Corporal Red Cloud received the Medal of Honor posthumously on July 2, 1951; the medal was presented to his mother, Nellie Red Cloud, by U.S. Army General Omar Bradley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Private First Class Charles George

Private First Class Charles George, a Cherokee from North Carolina, followed the ancient warrior tradition, when, on Nov. 30, 1952, he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. During the night of Nov. 30, George, a member of Company C, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, was with a raiding party operating near Songnae-dong, South Korea. The raiding party was charged with engaging the enemy and capturing a prisoner for interrogation. As they charged up a hill toward the enemy, the group faced intense mortar and machine-gun fire and suffered several casualties.

Throughout the charge, Private George fought valiantly, and once the crest of the hill had been reached, he jumped into the trench where the enemy soldiers were concealed and engaged them in hand-to-hand combat. When the troops were ordered to withdraw, George and two companions remained behind to cover the withdrawal. As they were leaving the trenches, an enemy soldier threw a grenade toward the Americans. Private George immediately threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the full blast, thus saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Although severely wounded, he kept silent so as not to reveal the position of the men with him. His companions evacuated him, but he died shortly thereafter.



Captain Raymond Harvey

Captain Raymond Harvey, a Chickasaw, was commanding officer of Company C, 17th Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for an action on March 9, 1951, near Taerni-dong, South Korea. When Harvey's company was pinned down by automatic weapons fire from several well-entrenched emplacements, he braved bullets and grenades to advance to the first North Korean machine gun nest and killed its crew with grenades. Rushing to the edge of the next emplacement, he killed its crew with carbine fire. Captain Harvey then moved the 1st Platoon forward, but it was again stopped by automatic weapons. Disregarding the hail of fire, he charged and destroyed a third emplacement. Miraculously, Harvey continued to lead the assault through the intense crossfire. After spotting a well-camouflaged enemy pillbox, he moved close enough to sweep the emplacement with carbine fire and throw grenades through the openings, killing its five occupants.

Though wounded and in pain, he ordered his company forward and continued to direct the attack on the remaining hostile positions. Harvey refused evacuation until assured that the mission would be accomplished. 

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