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Book by CCU professor examines role of Native Americans in World War II

September 5, 2000

World War II and the American Indian, by Coastal Carolina University professor Kenneth Townsend, is the first full account of Native American experiences in World War II, beginning with their response to the world's drift toward war in the 1930s and the impact of war on their lives. It reevaluates the role of the American Indian in World War II, and examines how the war marked a significant turning point in the identity and assimilation of Native Americans within the mainstream of society.

Townsend, an associate professor of history, developed the idea and wrote the first chapters of the book while he was in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "I owe my interest in World War II to my father, who was a veteran, and I have been fascinated by Native American history since I gained an awareness of Indian issues in the late 1960s," says Townsend. "This book allowed me to blend the two interests and probe a relatively unexplored area of American history."

World War II and the American Indian shows how New Deal policies designed to preserve traditional Native American lifeways inadvertently provided Indians the resources, training and services necessary for assimilation in the postwar years. Included are interviews with Native Americans who fought in Europe and the Pacific, those who resisted the draft, and American Indian women who worked in defense industries on the homefront.

Townsend joined the Coastal history faculty in 1989. He earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master's degree and Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.