FEBRUARY 17, 1997


Born November 21, 1919, Army Sergeant Joe Kieyoomia was with the 200th Coast Artillery in the Philippines when the islands fell to the Japanese in 1942.  His captivity began with surviving the horrors of the infamous Bataan Death March.  Due to his looks and name, he was imprisoned at Nagasaki, Japan.  The enemy assumed Kieyoomia was Japanese-American.  “I guess they didn’t know about Indians” he said.  Once realizing Joe was Navajo, his captors made him translate Navajo words, but it didn’t help them.  He wasn’t a code talker and didn’t even know about the Code.  His jailers didn’t believe him and tortured him.  Joe once was forced to stand naked in the snow for an hour in sub-freezing temperatures.  His feet froze to the ground.  His torment ended August 9, 1945, with the atomic bomb detonating over Nagasaki.  Joe miraculously survived.  Abandoned for 3 days, a Japanese officer finally freed him.  Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered, and lived to age 77.  

Source:  Blake Stilwell, “This Hard-Luck WWII Soldier Survived The Bataan Death March, Torture, And The Atomic Bomb,” We Are The Mighty,  8/23/2017, https://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/this-hard-luck-wwii-soldier-survived-the-bataan-death-march-torture-and-the-atomic-bomb
Photo:  Charles Levy, 8/9/1945.  Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office. News and Features Bureau. (12/17/1942 - 09/15/1945), National Archives and Records Administration 535795.  Public domain.  Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

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