Medal of Honor Recipient Ernest Childers

September 30, 2018

One of Brummett Echohawk's closest friends and brother-in-arms from the war was, Medal of Honor recipient and, Muscogee (Creek) Indian, Ernest Childers. On September 22, 1943 near Oliveto, Italy, Childers committed numerous courageous acts that resulted in him becoming the first Native American to receive a Medal of Honor since the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth-century. 

 

Despite wounds previously suffered and a fractured instep, Childers along with eight enlisted men following close behind, advanced up a hill toward enemy machine gun nests. As the group advanced to a rock wall overlooking a cornfield, Second Lt. Childers ordered a base of fire laid across the field so he could continue his advance and take out enemy machine guns. 

Childers featured in The Bureau of Indian Affairs publication Indians at Work, this article highlighted the work of Native Americans in the military, Brummett Echohawk and others were also featured in this article. 

 

As Childers worked his way toward the enemy positions, he was fired upon by two German snipers from a nearby house. Childer's responded by firing two quick shots, killing both of the enemy combatants. Knowing it was up to him to remove the entrenched enemy that remained, Childers crept behind another machine gun nest before disabling the German held position and killing its occupants. Despite his broken foot, he continued toward a second machine gun nest. Inching forward to the second machine gun position, Childer's threw rocks into it, sending the Germans scrambling, as they believed grenades had landed in their hole. When the German occupants of the nest raised up, he shot one while the other was caught in the sights of Childer's enlisted men. Second Lt. Childers continued his advance toward a house farther up the hill, where he captured an enemy mortar observer. 

Ernest Childers wearing traditional headdress. Notice the insignia worn on his right breast plate. This was the original insignia of the 45th Infantry. An American Indian symbol of good luck called, 'Whirling Logs" predated the Thunderbird as the 45th Infantry Division's insignia. Because of Hitlers use of the symbol for National Socialism the insignia was changed. The Thunderbird was designed by Kiowa artist Woody Big Bow from Carnegie, Ok and is worn to this day to represent the fighting Thunderbirds. 

 

For his inspiring and courageous actions in combat, General Jacob L. Devers awarded Childers the Medal of Honor. Childers achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring from the Army. He died at age 87 and was buried in his birthplace of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Before his death, a middle school was named in his honor as well as The Veteran's Administration's Ernest Childers Out Patient Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

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