Book Review: Drawing Fire: A Pawnee, Artist, and Thunderbird in World War II


by Brummett Echohawk, , with Mark R. Ellenbarger, edited by Trent Riley

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2018. Pp. xvii, 232+. Illus., personae., gloss., notes, index. $29.95. ISBN: 0700627030

A Memoir by a Native American Soldier and War Artist

Brummett Echohawk (1922-2006), a Pawnee National Guardsman from Oklahoma. During the Second world War he served in the largely Native American B Company, of the 179th Infantry, in the 45th “Thunderbird” Division, seeing in Sicily and Italy.

Echohawk was a skilled artist, during the war he made numerous sketches and notes from the field. Many of these appeared in Yank magazine and many newspapers during the war. Postwar, Echohawk became a noted newspaper artist and painter, and had a career in acting.

This work, “curated”, as it were, by Ellenberger and Riley, uses Echohawk’s own words and art to tell the story of his war. We get an often vivid account of his wartime experiences, which included two amphibious operations during three campaigns in less than a year; Sicily in mid-1943, Salerno in September of that year, and then, in January of 1944, at Anzio. During the protracted battle for the Anzio beachhead, Echohawk was seriously wounded and returned home, having earned a Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters and two arrow-heads, as well as a Purple Heart.

This is an often vivid personal tale of soldiers under fire. Echohawk not only gives us the soldier’s-eye-view of combat, but a lot of tips on soldiering. He also throws in a goodly amount of Indian lore and warcraft that he and his comrades had learned from the Elders, some of whom had been warriors and soldiers in earlier times, and there’s also a fair amount of commentary and humor – often ironic -- about the life of Native Americans in the early twentieth century.

Although Drawing Fire is not scholarly treatment of these events – the occasional historical blooper may cause some to wince – it is a very good read for anyone interested in the soldier’s view of combat, as well as Native Americans in military service and the Italian Campaign, albeit that a map or three would have been useful.


Note: Drawing Fire is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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