Joe Lee Kieyoomia

Joe Lee Kieyoomia

Birth
Death 17 Feb 1997 (aged 77)
Burial Farmington, San Juan County, New Mexico, USA
Memorial ID 58264231 · View Source
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Sergeant Joe Lee Kieyoomia was a Navajo soldier in New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery unit who was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Sergeant Kieyoomia was a Prisoner of War (POW) in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing on the morning of August 9, 1945 but survived, he reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the atomic bomb by the concrete walls of his cell. The Japanese tried unsuccessfully to have him decode messages in the "Navajo Code" used by the United States Marine Corps, but although Sergeant Kieyoomia understood Navajo, the messages sounded like nonsense to him because the Marine Navajo Code Talkers had developed a series of code words.
Initially tortured because his Japanese captors thought he was Japanese-American (and therefore a traitor), Sergeant Kieyoomia suffered months of beatings before the Japanese accepted his claim to Navajo ancestry. He survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines that killed thousands of starved U.S. soldiers. When the "Navajo Code" had the Japanese baffled, Sergeant Kieyoomia was questioned and then tortured, although he could only understand bits and pieces of what trained Navajo Code Talkers were saying, the code was so sophisticated that he eventually told the Japanese that it sounded like nonsense to him. Sergeant Kieyoomia was not trained as a code talker and did not know about the code. Stripped naked and made to stand for hours in deep snow until he talked, Sergeant Kieyoomia's feet froze to the ground. Finally allowed to return to his cell, a guard shoved him, causing the soles of his feet to tear. After surviving the prison camps, the "hell ships" and the torture, Sergeant Kieyoomia was a prisoner in Nagasaki when that city was the target of the second atomic bomb dropped by U.S. B-29 Superfortress. Sergeant Kieyoomia survived the atomic bombing attack saying he was protected by the concrete walls of his cell. After 3-1/2 years as a POW, he was abandoned for three days after the atomic bombing, but he said a Japanese officer finally freed him. He returned to the United States after being released and rescued by U.S. forces.



  • Created by: Kathy
  • Added: 6 Sep 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 58264231
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  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Joe Lee Kieyoomia (21 Nov 1919–17 Feb 1997), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58264231, citing Memory Gardens of Farmington, Farmington, San Juan County, New Mexico, USA ; Maintained by Kathy (contributor 47258034) .