Drawing Fire

A Pawnee, Artist, and Thunderbird in World War II

Brummett Echohawk with Mark R. Ellenbarger, edited by Trent Riley, foreword by Lt. Col. Ernest Childers

In 1940 Brummett Echohawk, an eighteen-year-old Pawnee boy, joined the Oklahoma National Guard. Within three years his unit, a tough collection of depression era cowboys, farmers, and more than a thousand Native Americans, would land in Europe—there to distinguish themselves as, in the words of General George Patton, “one of the best, if not the best division, in the history of American arms.” During his service with the 45th Infantry, the vaunted Thunderbirds, Echohawk tapped the talent he had honed at Pawnee boarding school to document the conflict in dozens of annotated sketches.

These combat sketches form the basis of Echohawk’s memoir of service with the Thunderbirds in World War II. In scene after scene he re-creates acts of bravery and moments of terror as he and his fellow soldiers fight their way through key battles at Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. Woven with Pawnee legend and language and quickened with wry Native wit, Drawing Fire conveys in a singular way what it was like to go to war alongside a band of Indian brothers. It stands as a tribute to those Echohawk fought with and those he lost, a sharply observed and deeply felt picture of men at arms—capturing for all time the enduring spirit and steadfast strength of the Native American warrior.

“This honest and beautiful memoir begins with the division's botched landing in Anzio and focuses on days of close combat and frequent confusion familiar to so many GIs in the European theater. Echohawk movingly recalls the language and warrior traditions he and his fellow Native soldiers followed—and, in one episode, humorously recalls fake ones they invented to intimidate insolent German captives. This excellent and fascinating account is a unique contribution to the literature of WWII.

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This memoir is an outstanding contribution to the literature of World War II and, hopefully, will instill pride (and perhaps even awe) in current and future generations of readers who want to know what the war was like for the individual fighting man—especially one of Native American heritage. Although Native Americans have been terribly discriminated against for centuries by the US government, the men who served their country as warriors demonstrated courage and loyalty out of all proportion to their numbers. Brummett Echohawk was one of these warriors, and his story is among the best personal accounts of the war that one will find.”

—Flint Whitlock, author of The Rock of Anzio: From Sicily to Dachau, a History of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division

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About the Author

Brummett Echohawk was born in 1922 in Pawnee, Oklahoma, into a family with a military tradition dating back to the Indian Wars of the 1860s, when his grandfather Howard Echohawk served as a famed Pawnee scout. A celebrated illustrator and artist best known for his focus on the American Indian and the American West, he also designed the flag of the Pawnee Nation and worked on several projects, including, with Thomas Hart Benton, the mural Independence and the Opening of the West at the Truman Memorial Library in Independence, Missouri. For his service in the World War II, Echohawk earned a Combat Infantry Badge, a Bronze Star Medal, the US Army Commendation Medal, two Invasion Arrowheads, a Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal.

Mark R. Ellenbarger is a retired American Airlines executive, and, founder and director of the Brummett Echohawk Project (brummettechohawkproject.com).

Trent Riley is a Public Historian currently serving on the staff of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Lt. Col. Ernest Childers (US Army retired) is a World War II veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, and Muscogee (Creek) Indian.