D-Day Veteran Chief David Bald Eagle Dies at 97 | Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

D-Day Veteran Chief David Bald Eagle Dies at 97

We were saddened to hear that Native American Chief David Bald Eagle, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II and fought in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Anzio, died at the age of 97. (Photo: Tom Griffith/Rapid City Journal via AP)

Chief Bald Eagle is probably more widely known for appearing in the Oscar-winning 1990 film Dances With Wolves, than he is for his service to our country. But as National Public Radio noted in their story on Bald Eagle, “appearing in an Oscar-award-winning film was one of the least interesting things David Bald Eagle ever did. In his long, extraordinary life, he was a champion dancer — both ballroom and Lakota styles — a touring musician, a rodeo cowboy, a tribal chief, an actor, a stunt double, a war hero.”

About Chief Bald Eagle’s Military Service

As reported on NPR, “As a young man Bald Eagle enlisted in the horse cavalry. A few years later it was mechanized: The Army swapped his horse for a motorcycle, and made him a messenger.

He was discharged on Dec. 7, 1941. After he’d signed his papers, he heard the news about Pearl Harbor. At his commander’s request he reenlisted, joining as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.

Sgt. Bald Eagle’s first combat jump was during the invasion of Anzio, Italy. He was part of a regiment that fought so fiercely a captured German soldier called them “Devils in Baggy Pants.”

Then he parachuted into Normandy, suffering severe injuries when he was accidentally dropped directly over German troops, an easy target for gunfire.

“We were just like clay pigeons, coming down. Most of my outfit was wiped out,” he told the Rapid City Journal in 2001.

“The first medics to reach him left him for dead,” the paper wrote. “But some British commandos came along and found he still had a pulse.”

Bald Eagle survived and went on to live a truly amazing life.

Watch Chief Bald Eagle Talking about His Military Service

There is a wonderful video posted on NPR of Chief Bald Eagle talking about his military service in WWII. It is a must-watch!

You can listen to the story and watch the video on NPR here.

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