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From Geronimo to ‘The Scalp Hunters’: 10 Military Uses of Native Imagery

Considering the U.S. Military uses a plethora of Native American names and imagery to label and designate combat equipment, machinery and maneuvers and missions, one is often left to wonder the illustrious but simple question, why?

In an opinion article in the Washington Post by Simon Waxman (managing editor of the Boston Review) entitled, The U.S. military’s ongoing slur of Native Americans Waxman eloquently puts it this way,

“The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.”

Considering Waxman’s words as well as holding on to our own Native perspective, perhaps we can pause for a moment and ponder these 10 Military Uses of Native American Names.

The Mission to capture Osama bin Laden was dubbed “Operation Geronimo”

President Obama and Washington first learned that Osama bin Laden – the main player in the 9-11 Trade Tower Terrorist Attacks, had been killed when a Navy SEAL sent back a coded message to Washington which simply stated “Geronimo-E KIA” The message meant that Osama Bin Laden (Geronimo) the Enemy (E) had been Killed in Action (KIA).

The use of the term sent shockwaves through Indian country and the world, critics called the use of Geronimo in poor taste for the military assault.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

RELATED: Don’t Read My Lips: Why an Apology from Obama on “Geronimo” Is Unlikely

RELATED: Bin Laden Ain’t No Geronimo

The BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missile

The Tomahawk is an all-weather submarine or ship launched land attack cruise missile. After launch, an enclosed turbofan engine keeps the missile at cruise until hitting the target with pinpoint accuracy. The Tomahawk was used extensively during Desert Storm in 1991, in Iraq in 1993, in Bosnia in 1995 and in Iraq (Desert Strike) in 1996.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The H-21 Shawnee Transport Helicopter

In the early 1960s the U.S. Army acquired several hundred of the Piasecki H-21 Helicopters which were assigned the name Shawnee. The Shawnee transport helicopter was the veritable workhorse of the Vietnam War. A few years before that time, a U.S. Army H-21 made the first nonstop transcontinental helicopter flight across the United States on August 24, 1956, traveling 2,610 miles in 37 hours.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The Air Force’s 93rd Bomb Squadron aka ‘The Scalp Hunters’

Assigned to the U.S. Air Force Reserves 307th Operations Group, the 93rd Bomb Squadron is one of the oldest and most decorated units in the United States Air Force. Having been deployed since 1917 to such places as France, the Philippines, the western front during WWI and much more, they have also been known as the scalp hunters as is evident on their emblem.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The U.S. Army Mohawk OV-1D

The Mohawk was a high performance two seat observation aircraft first flown in 1959 with the last plane leaving production in 1970. During the Vietnam War, it was the mainstay of Army surveillance that has also patrolled East Germany, North Korea and other dangerous locations. During the 1991 Gulf War Mohawks were credited for locating and maintaining watch over Iraq elite forces.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The C-12 Huron

The C-12 Huron by Beechcraft is a twin-engine aircraft used by the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy for various duties to include embassy support, medical evacuation and passenger and light cargo transport. First produced in 1974, some C-12 Huron’s have been modified with surveillance systems for various missions, to include Cefly Lancer, Guardrail and Project Liberty.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopter

The UH-1 Iroquois by Bell – which was also known as the “Huey” was the multi-purpose utility helicopter most known for its use during the Vietnam War. Of the approximate 16,000 helicopters manufactured by Bell between 1955 and 1976, over 7,000 went to Vietnam.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The T-41 Mescalero

The T-41 Mescalero is a short-range trainer aircraft and the military version of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. This trainer aircraft equipped with avionics and other mission applicable equipment is used primarily for pilot candidate screening.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The RU-21 Ute

The RU-21 Ute was an electronic intelligence aircraft built for the U.S. Army Security Agency developed for use in the later years of the Vietnam War. The airframe includes navigation, avionics and survivability equipment.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

The UH-60 Black Hawk

Perhaps one of the most ‘famous’ pieces of military equipment, the UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopter is known for its proficiency during combat missions. Overall, the Black Hawk helicopter is the U.S. Army’s primary medium-lift utility transport and air assault aircraft.

The A model was designed to carry 11 combat troops in addition to an additional manning crew of three which included the pilot, co-pilot and a crew chief. The Black Hawk’s main role was intended to serve in utility, air assault, medevac, command and control, and reconnaissance roles.

Courtesy Veteran Affairs Department

Stephanie Birdwell makes remarks at Bethel Veteran Listening Session in May 2011.

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From Geronimo to ‘The Scalp Hunters’: 10 Military Uses of Native Imagery

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