In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we are featuring Native American veterans and their stories from the oral history collection. Native Americans served in the United States military since the Revolutionary War and continue to do so with honor and distinction. Their military experiences vary greatly as you will hear from the interviews below.
Today, we start with the stories of two Ho-Chunk brothers who served in World War II, Walter R. Whitehorse and Harry Whitehorse. These are their stories. To listen to them with our player click on “Click here to listen.”
Please note these interviews may contain potentially disturbing content related to combat as well as sensitive material relating to PTSD, trauma, assault, and moral injury. We appreciate the bravery of the narrators in sharing their stories—please be respectful when engaging with these interviews.
Walter R. Whitehorse served as a radar man during World War II on the USS Herndon on convoy missions in England, Italy, and Western Europe. On the USS Catoctin he saw action during the invasion of Southern France and accompanied a convoy to the Yalta Conference in the Black Sea.
Harry Whitehorse enlisted in the United States Navy in 1944 at age sixteen. He was amphibian, motor machinist, and boiler tender as it supported troops in southern France after D-Day. Whitehorse transferred to a Landing Ship Tank (LST) as a Petty Officer Third-Class, deployed to the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Saipan, and Japan as the war ended.
Bertha A. Smith served as a clerk and nurse's aide in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) with the 211th Army Air Force Base Unit during World War II.
Theodore F. Christjohn was a United States Army demolition specialist in D Company, 588th Combat Engineer Battalion, 20th Brigade, Vietnam.
Gilman E. Lincoln, Sr., enlisted in the United States Navy at age sixteen and trained as a Seabee at Camp Endicott, Rhode Island. Deployed to Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, and the Philippines. Lincoln landed at Guam on V-J Day.
Rose A. Skenandore Kerstetter grew up in Menasha, Wisconsin, and attended the Flandreau Indian High School in South Dakota and the Haskell Institute, Kansas, where she completed a commercial course. She joined the Women's Army Corps in 1943 and worked as a stenographer at Camp Hood, Texas, until her discharge in 1946.
James C. Begay was a twenty year Marine Corps veteran who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He repaired and drove the M26 Pershing medium duty tank during the Korean War.
Cornelius A. Hill enlisted in the United Stated Army in 1950 and deployed to Korea on Christmas Eve 1950. Part of the 5th Regimental Combat Team, 24th Infantry Division, Hill’s unit entered northern Korea until Chinese troops countered their advance and forced their retreat.
Robert J. Webster was a Marine infantry pointman in G Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division from 1966 to 1969.
Raymond C. Kaquatosh enlisted in the United States Marines in 1943 at age seventeen. When Marines attacked the Japanese at Pelieliu, Kaquatosh survived heavy Marine losses. A sniper’s bullet fractured his ankle and he recuperated at Pearl Harbor, in San Francisco, and at Wausau, Wisconsin.
Edward S. DeNomie received training at Camp Douglas and was attached to Company K of the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, just prior to being assigned to partake in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico. After his regiment returned to Wisconsin, DeNomie continued attending Tomah High School until his unit was activated for duty following the United States entry into World War I.
James K. Overman served in the United States Airforce with the 16th Special Operations Squadron (SOS), Ubon Air Force Base, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. He served from 1952 to 1972.