Kenneth C. Blacktail
Biography: Kenneth Coe Blacktail, “Ironshield”, was born on June 4, 1915, in Wolf Point, Roosevelt, Montana. He was one of five sons and two daughters born to Henry Blacktail Sr. and Gertrude Wetsit. Kenneth attended Flandreau Indian School in Flandreau, South Dakota, graduating after four years of high school.
His draft card, dated October 16, 1940, indicates he was working in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) on the Fort Peck Reservation. Kenneth and his family were members of the Native American Assinboine Nation located on the reservation. His enlistment record indicates the was working as a carpenter.
Service Time: Kenneth entered the Army on March 13, 1942 at Missoula, MT. On the 21st, he was assigned to, and joined, Company C of the 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Ord, California. He was promoted to Private First Class (PFC) on July 1st.
He trained with the unit at a number of locations including: Fort Ord, Camp San Luis Obispo, Hunter Liggett Military Reservation and the Desert Training Center, all in California, along with Camp Hood, Texas and Camp Cooke, CA. While they originally trained with M10 tank destroyers, the unit was converted to a towed battalion, utilizing the M5 3” anti-tank gun, on December 15, 1943.
Arriving at Liverpool, England, on April 21, 1944, they continued training. Company C landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 24th and the 607th supported the advance on Cherbourg, fighting along the Seves River in July. They joined the drive to Le Mans and envelopment of the Falaise Pocket in August, advancing to the Moselle River in September and supporting operations against Metz through November. The unit converted to a self-propelled battalion equipped with M36 tank destroyers in time for the final assault on Metz. Continuing the drive toward the Saar River, they participated in the attack on Saarlautern, Germany, followed by the subsequent fight against the Siegfried Line in December.
The unit was deployed to the Ardennes sector in January 1945 and again committed against the Siegfried Line in February in the Schnee Eifel. Supporting the capture of Koblenz, Germany in mid-March, they crossed the Rhine River at Boppard on March 25. They continued to drive east through Hessen and Thüringen during April and reached the Czechoslovak border near Plauen by mid-April. Thereafter, they remained in defensive positions until VE Day. At some point while they were in Europe, Kenneth was transferred to Headquarters Company. He earned the Good Conduct, WWII Victory, Occupation of Germany and the EAME medals with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. He left the service on December 3, 1945, at the rank of Private First Class.
After returning to the U.S., Kenneth married the former Flora Wells Willis, from Elbowoods, North Dakota, who was the daughter of Ralph Wills and Polly Plentyfox. The couple made their home in Wolf Point and had one daughter, Carol. Over the years, Kenneth worked for the Great Northern Railroad, the City of Poplar and as a ranch hand at various local ranches. He also established his own farm and ranch, east of Wolf Point, where he raised a variety of livestock.
In his spare time, he enjoyed fishing, attending the local rodeo’s, especially the Wild Horse Stampede and attending the local Indian celebrations, where he was an active participant, taking part in the singing and dancing until his health forced him to retire.
Kenneth passed away on September 16, 1994, and was buried with military honors at the Greenwood Cemetery in Wolf Point, Montana.