Kieyoomia, Joe Lee, Sgt

 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Air Defense Artillery
Last Primary MOS
645-Fire Control Instrument Operator, Field Artillery
Last MOS Group
Field Artillery (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1942-1944, 645, POW/MIA
Service Years
1941 - 1945


One Service Stripe

Five Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
New Mexico
New Mexico
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Kieyoomia, Joe Lee, Sgt.
Contact Info
Home Town
Farmington, New Mexico
Last Address
Farmington, New Mexico

Date of Passing
Feb 17, 1997
Location of Interment
Memory Gardens of Farmington - Farmington, New Mexico
Wall/Plot Coordinates

 Official Badges 

Honorably Discharged WW II Navajo Code Talkers Congressional Medal

 Unofficial Badges 

Artillery Shoulder Cord

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

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.

Other Comments:
Not Specified
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 Unit Assignments
  1941-1945, 645, ARNG, New Mexico
  1942-1944, 645, POW/MIA
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1942-1942 Philippine Islands Campaign (1941-42)/Bataan Death March
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