Samuel Nathan Blatchford

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Samuel Nathan Blatchford
Born 1925
Lawton, Oklahoma
Died 2008 (aged 82–83)
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Service/branch US Army Air Corps
Rank Master Sergeant
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart (4)
Air Medal (6)
Prisoner of War Medal

Samuel Nathan Blatchford (1925–2005) was an American soldier and civil engineer, he is the most decorated American Indian veteran to date.

His mother, Pauline Manuelito was the great-granddaughter of the great warrior Chief Manuelito who fought Kit Carson in the Navajo Wars (1869–63) and led his people in exile to the current Navajo Reservation.

In 1941, Samuel Nathan Blatchford began his own journey as a warrior, enlisting into the US Army Air Corps pre WWII. At the age of 17, standing 5’9” and weighing 130 pounds it seemed unlikely that Samuel would make much of a name for himself as a warrior. His military service included:

  • Scouting for the 7th Cavalry before it switched from horses to tanks.
  • Serving as a radio operator and gunner on a B17 Flying Fortress in Europe and getting shot down four times.
  • Working with the French Resistance until his capture by the Gestapo.
  • Numerous escape attempts from Stalag 17-B.
  • Combat flying missions in Korea.
  • Combat service as a ground forward air controller with an Army unit in Vietnam.

During World War II, his plane was shot down and exploded midair over enemy lines. Thrown from the plane, he was able to pull the ripcord on his parachute before losing consciousness. Thereon in, he fought with the French before being captured and spending 18 months as a Prisoner of War in Stalag 17. Upon his rescue and return to the United States, he discovered that his fiancée, who presumed he was dead, had married someone else and was expecting a child. 56 years later, when both had become widows, they finally married.

All in all, Master Sergeant Blatchford earned 28 medals including; the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, four Purple Hearts, six Air Medals and the Prisoner of War Medal. The French government presented him with its Freedom Medal for his work with the French Resistance, a Citizenship Medal bestowing honorary citizenship, as well as the key to the city of Lisio.[1]

In recognition of his life, the Lakota Sioux adopted Blatchford and gave him the Yellow Eagle Feather, the highest honor a Lakota warrior can receive.

Sam was also a Headman for the Memphis TiaPiah Society, holding the title of Grandfather Rabbit. The Memphis TiaPiah is a branch of the TiaPiah Society of Carnegie, now known as the Kiowa TiaPiah Society

In between wars, Samuel earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. In addition to his native Navajo and second language of English, he also learned to speak Turkish, French, German and Japanese.

Mr. Blatchford died at the age of 81 on December 23, 2005. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 2008, the US opened a $106 million military complex at al Udeid Air Base and named it the Blatchford-Preston Complex, so that the memories of Sergeant Samuel Blatchford and General Maurice A. Preston would not be forgotten.[2]


  1. Samuel Nathan Blatchford - Arlington Cemetery
  2. "SECAF declares new complex officially open", February 7, 2008, U.S. Air Force