Platoon Scout, Company D, 511 PIR
November 13, 1924 -
Citations: Purple Heart (2x OLC), Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Badge, Philippine Liberation Medal with service star, the American Defense Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Battle Stars and one Arrowhead
Alex Village Center grew up on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
It is not known where he was born or his tribe. He apparently aspired to be a paratrooper, and succeeded in that area, and he was assigned to D Company after his training. He was affectionately known as The Chief.
Cpl. William R. Walter recounted a humorous episode involving another Indian from F Company, and Village Center being involved in a race. Apparently, The Chief’s feet were not in too good shape at the time, and he declined to race. After some good natured chiding by Walter and Sgt. Donald J. Hyatt, Village Center said, “Alright, I won’t win the race, but I’ll beat the Sioux.” Apparently, he took off like a streak, and beat the other Indian by a good distance.
Chauncy Poole, contributed some information and provided some letters which give just a few glimpses of his life:
"While we were on the Sea Pike on the way to New Guinea, all Airborne Troopers received a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, advising them that they were soldiers of the United States embarking to distant places to fight the enemy. The outcome, the letter went on to state, said that the outcome would affect their freedom and those they loved. You, the soldiers, the President stated, are a God-fearing, proud and courageous people, who have throughout history, put its freedom under God before all other purposes. The letter ended saying that the hope, confidence and gratitude and prayers of your families, your fellow-citizens and your President go with you on this voyage.
"The Chief received a second letter with the Presidential stamp. As me, Sgt. Donald J. Hyatt, Locke, and Zertuche gathered around him on deck, the opened his letter. Couched in officialdom, it said that Pfc Alex Village Center could go home; his brothers having been killed in Europe. The Chief slowly shook his head as he read the letter, and said, “You are my Brothers now.”
"We called him Chief out of respect and admiration and he knew it. One could call it a term of endearment.
"After his military service The Chief returned to Little Eagle, South Dakota. In one of his letters, he made comments such as “Met Pfc. William L. Dubes in town; he sure looks good in civies”. He wrote to me in Kamaishi and apparently did not fit in well after his return to the Reservation. He once said to me, “Beware of Civilian life.”
"The next letter I received said, 'I am going back into the Service where I can be somebody, because here, I’m just another Indian.' (He WAS somebody to us, but didn’t know it.)
"The last letter I received, he said, “I’m going to Korea and when I get back, I will see you and look at that job offer on my way to see my sister in Canada."
"With three Purple Hearts and accounting for more of the enemy than most, he did not come home from that God Damn Korea."
Story compiled from various sources by Jane Carrico
Submitted to Winds Aloft May 2011
2nd Platoon, D Company, 511 PIR on New Guinea. Pfc. Alex Village Center is in middle of front row, 5th from the left or right (Photo by Pfc. Norman Zadoorian via Jane Carrico)
Pfc. Alex Village Center is on the far right (photo by Pfc. Norman Zadoorian via Jane Carrico)
If you would like to learn more about Alex's exploits within and the history of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II, please consider purchasing a copy of the book WHEN ANGEL'S FALL: FROM TOCCOA TO TOKYO, THE 511TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR II, available in the regimental online store, on Amazon or wherever military history books are sold.