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.
“Echohawk movingly narrates his experiences and those of his fellow Native soldiers, including details that contextualize their service. A gifted artist, Echohawk drew poignant sketches over the course of the war, which are interspersed throughout this book. This monograph honors the heroic service of Native soldiers and patriots while also vividly conveying the horrors of war.”
“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)See all reviews...
“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
“Drawing Fire is a unique and invaluable contribution about American Indians serving in the United States Armed Forces during World War II. It is the personal memoir of the self-taught Pawnee artist Brummett Echohawk, who developed his artistic skills on the battlefields of Europe as a member of the famed 45th Infantry. The reader of this gripping narrative will feel like a participant in what is often the tedium of military service punctuated by the horrors of combat.”
—Herman J. Viola, curator emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
“Drawing Fire is a sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but always fascinating account of the 1943 invasion of Italy by the 45th ‘Thunderbird’ Division, which gained fame because of the number of Native American soldiers in the companies, their bravery and leadership skills, and their use of tribal languages (in this case mostly Pawnee), sign language, and honored warrior traditions. Echohawk’s oral history, which reads like a well-paced action movie script, will be of great interest to World War II military buffs and a substantive contribution to historians and researchers in the sparse field on Native Americans in World War II.”
—Jeré Bishop Franco, author of Crossing the Pond: The Native American Effort in World War II
“Brummett Echohawk served with the 45th Infantry Division throughout Italy where he was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Congressional Gold Medal (posthumously). Drawing on his tribal heritage, following the war he dedicated himself to preserving traditional Pawnee culture and became a nationally recognized Native American artist.”
—Kenny A. Franks, coauthor of Pawnee Pride: A History of Pawnee CountySee fewer reviews...