Joe Medicine Crow became a war chief of the Crow Tribe while fighting WW2
A legendary Joe

Joe Medicine Crow became a war chief of the Crow Tribe while fighting WW2.

Joe Medicine Crow

Highbird Counting Coup on Enemy Rifle, 2012. Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow], b. 1973)

During WW2, Joe Medicine Crow became a war chief by touching an enemy without killing him, taking an enemy’s weapon, leading a war party and stealing 50 horses from the SS.

While in combat in Europe, and perhaps without quite meaning to, Joe Medicine Crow performed the four war deeds necessary to become the last war chief.

First, he led a seven-man squad carrying explosives through a wall of artillery fire to blast German positions along the Siegfried Line.  Then, while helping to take over a German-held village, he literally ran into a German soldier, knocking him down. He quickly disarmed the soldier, taking away his rifle. Finally, in the last weeks of the war, he stole 50 horses from a battalion of German officers.

Not ordinary horses

Here’s his retelling of the horse stealing bit:

In World War II, I managed to have captured fifty head of horses. These were not ordinary horses. They belonged to SS officers, you know? During the last days of the war over there, there was a lot of confusion, so a bunch of these SS officers got on their horses and took off. . . . They were heading back to Germany. And here’s that old sneaky old Crow Indian now following them, watching them. So they camped for the night. I sneak in there and took all their fifty head of horses, left them on foot. So I got on one, looked around there and I even sang a Crow victory song all by myself. Crows do that when they think they’re all by themselves, they do things like that. So I sang a victory song.

—Joe Medicine Crow

The story is even better with this recording of him telling it.

When Medicine Crow was born in 1913, the intertribal war days were already over by 30 years.

But Yellowtail taught his grandson how to run, swim, ride, read tracks and listen – how to be a good warrior and a good soldier in the Crow tradition.

Medicine Crow’s step-grandfather, White-Man-Runs-Him, was one of six Crow scouts who warned Custer to await reinforcements before attacking.

The names of the scouts were White-Man-Runs-Him, Goes Ahead, Curly, Hairy Moccasin, White Swan, and Half Yellow Face.

White-Man-Runs-Him used to say that Custer “turned whiter than ever” when he saw how many Lakota had gathered at Sitting Bull’s camp.

Of those six scouts, Medicine Crow knew four and as a child listened to their memories of the battle and served as a translator for his grandfather when he was interviewed by reporters and others about the battle.

Joe Medicine Crow

Highbird Counting Coup on Enemy Rifle, 2012. Chester Medicine Crow (Apsáalooke [Crow], b. 1973

Fired with their Boots On

Medicine Crow once tried to get a part in the 1939 Errol Flynn Custer movie “They Died with their Boots on”. Medicine Crow was chosen for the writing crew – until the Director asked him if he happened to know anything about Custer’s Last Stand.

Medicine Crow told how his grandfather thought Custer foolish for being attacked too early, and the producer didn’t like that. Because the film was intended to build public confidence in US military troops during WWII, Medicine Crow was told “You’re fired. Get out.”

Adolf Hitler and Albert Einstein

Germans were madly interested in the Wild West and Native Americans during WW2.

The most popular series of books in the German language of all time were the works of western writer Karl May.

He was a favorite author of both Adolf Hitler and Albert Einstein.

Adolf Hitler noted in Mein Kampf that the novels “overwhelmed” him as a boy, going as far as to ensure “a noticeable decline” in his school grades. Einstein said, “My whole adolescence stood under his sign. Indeed, even today, he has been dear to me in many a desperate hour…”

A Reddit comment compares a 1944 German finding himself fighting with a native American stealing his horses to the most weeaboo guy imaginable suddenly faced with a samurai.

Joe Medicine Crow continued to write and lecture at universities and public institutions until his death last year at 102 years of age.

He was the last surviving war chief of the Crow Tribe and was the last living Plains Indian war chief.


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