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Buffalo Boy Canoe - WW-II Hero ?

Buffalo Boy Canoe's name has appeared in four historical WW-II books over a span of 47 years, (1959 - 2006). In a fifth instance, Mr. Buffalo Boy Canoe was mailed a questionnaire in 1958, for Cornelius Ryan's book "The Longest Day". Mr. Ryan's book tells the story of the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy, France.

The first book Buffalo Boy Canoe's name appears in is, "The Longest Day", published in 1959 and authored by Cornelius Ryan. Buffalo Boy Canoe's name is in the section of the book that lists D-Day veterans that participated in the invasion of Normandy, France and what they do today (in 1959).

In 1983, two of the books were authored by William Breurer. The books brought to light a 505 Parachute Infantry paratrooper called "Sgt. Buffalo Boy Canoe". The two books were "Drop Zone Sicily" and "They Jumped at Midnight".

In 2006 " Four Stars of Valor " by Phil Nordyke was published. This is the fourth time Buffalo Boy Canoe appears in a book about WW-II and the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. In this instance, the author sourced Mr. Canoe's 1958 Cornelius Ryan questionnaire for his new book "The Longest Day".

(There are approximately 30 links throughout this webpage. Double click to see the link. This will open the link in a new window. To enlarge the linked material, hold the ctrl button down and press the + to the desired size.)

When Buffalo Boy Canoe originally filled out Cornelius Ryan's questionnaire in 1958, Mr.Canoe claimed he served with D company, in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. For that reason, in early 2013, we contacted Gerald Weed, an original member of D company, about Buffalo Boy Canoe. He recalled the discussion the two books caused at reunions among some of D company's paratroopers. Gerald said no one seemed to remember a Buffalo Boy Canoe being in D company or the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment.

We have also reviewed all available 505 Parachute Infantry, D company payroll records and morning reports from July,1942 through October,1945. We found no listings for a paratrooper called Buffalo Boy Canoe.

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Book # 1                 The 1959 book "The Longest Day", was authored by Cornelius Ryan. As mentioned above, Buffalo Boy Canoe's name appears in the section of the book that lists D-Day veterans that participated in the invasion of Normandy, France and what they do today. Having his name in this section of the book, gave credibility to his WW-II experience's. His name appears on page 307 as;
"Canoe, Buffalo Boy, T/Sgt. [82nd Airborne] Judo Instructor, Venice, California"

 

Book # 2                 The 1983 book "Drop Zone Sicily", authored by William Breurer, was about the 1943 Allied Airborne assault on Sicily. On pages 68, 70 and 71, a 505 Parachute Infantry paratrooper by the name of Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe was introduced. According to the book, he was a full-blooded Oglala Sioux Indian from South Dakota. He came from a family of 15 children, of which six sons were serving in combat around the world. In the book it was said Sergeant Canoe used hit and run battle tactics inherited from his Indian forefathers, and would let out a loud "whoop" when attacking Germans with only a knife. In this book he was 21 years old.

 

Book # 3                 In the third book, "They Jumped at Midnight", also published in 1983, and once more, authored by William Breurer, covers the Salerno, Italy campaign. On page 110, Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe is quoted as saying while sharpening his knife "I got two Kraut scalps in Sicily and I am going to get a couple more before the night is over."
On page 115, Sergeant Canoe is jumping out of the same C-47 airplane as the 505 Parachute Infantry Regimental commander, Jim Gavin. In this book Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe was 20 years old.

 

Book # 4                 In the fourth book,"Four Stars of Valor ", authored by Phil Nordyke, published in 2006, covers the combat history of the 505-Parachute Infantry Regiment during WW-II. In the chapter on the invasion of Normandy, France, page 133, the book quotes "Sgt. Buffalo Boy Canoe" **As his plane flew across the English channel, Technical Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe, with Company D, looked down the aisle at the other troopers, "some of the group in deep thought, some praying, some trying to hold a conversation, others reading old letters, a few with big tears of fear, which we all had. My thought was what will it feel like to be hit in the sky and if I would ever see my dear ones." **

** Taken from Cornelius Ryan's 1958 "Buffalo Boy Canoe" questionnaire for his book "The Longest Day".
(webmaster's note; We believe Cornelius Ryan did not use any part of the Buffalo Boy Canoe questionnaire in his book "The Longest Day". His name is not listed in the book's index of names at the back of the book.)

 

Our research indicates "Buffalo Boy Canoe" is William "Bill Cano" of Shreveport, Louisiana. Rather than let stand, an inaccurate historical combat record of company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, we have decide to present facts available in the public domain. Well over a year ago, an effort was made to obtain copies of William Cano's Army records, we received no response. William Cano's Army serial number was 18211623.

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Below is a trail that begins in 1925 with the birth of "William "Bill" Cano" of Mexican ancestry on his fathers' side. His mother was born in Louisiana. In 1951, William Cano morphs into "Bill (Buffalo Boy) Cano", grandson of a 117 year old Shawnee Chief of Oklahoma. He is still using his given first and last names. In 1953 he now goes by the name of "Billy "Buffalo Boy" Canoe" an Oglala Sioux Indian. Now he is only using his given first name and changed his last name from Cano to Canoe, by simply adding an e to his surname of Cano. In 1958 he finally becomes "Buffalo Boy Canoe", and now, for the first time, he has dropped all vestiges of his original name William "Bill" Cano.


Young Bill Cano, The Times, Saturday October 7,1933.
Courtesy Newspapers.com.


Young Bill Cano, The Shreveport Journal,
Saturday December 12,1936. Courtesy Newspapers.com.

     On April 15th 1925 William "Bill" Cano was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. According to Ancestry.com, his father, Jose Francisco Cano (aka "Frank Cano"),  was born in Burgos, Tamaulipas, Mexico and his mother, Lena Oneal Cano, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. William had 9 sisters and one brother, all born in Louisiana.  (Total 13 family members)

      As a young boy, William was proud of his Mexican ancestry. For special occasions, between the ages of 8 and 11 years of age, Bill Cano would dress in the costume of his father's native Mexico and greet people attending a Spanish Tea given by the local Author's club. At other times, when he was younger, he would visit Shreveport offices, as a peanut vendor and would sing in his father's native Mexican language. (See two news articles on the left.)

In February of 1943, 17 year old William "Bill" Cano broke his leg riding his bicycle in Shreveport, Louisiana. The local newspaper printed an article on the accident. In it, his mom asks the local citizens if they have an old pair of crutches for her son Bill to use. She leaves her telephone number. (see news article below). (Yet five months later, in the book "Drop Zone Sicily" "Buffalo Boy Canoe" was a 21 year old Sergeant in July of 1943.)

During World War II, Frank and Lena Cano made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their youngest son, Seaman First Class Richard Cano, who was killed in action on February 17,1945, fighting in the Pacific theater with the United States Navy. This tragedy left William, the Cano's only surviving son.


17 year old Bill Cano breaks his leg
February 1943. Courtesy Newspapers.com.

In the summer of 1944 Bill Cano was coaching a softball team of 10 to 14 year old boys in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. The softball team he coached was called the Allendale Bombers, affiliated with the Red Shield Boys Club. The team was featured in the local newspaper called the Shreveport Journal on September 8,1944. (Yet in June and July of 1944 "Buffalo Boy Canoe" aka Bill Cano, was fighting in Normandy, France.)

During the month of May, 1945, World War II ended. The Shreveport Times newspaper reported on May 20,1945 Bill Cano was boxing in the 135lbs. class.

Bill Cano's father returned to Reynosa, Mexico for his health in early October 1948. Bill followed his father there, unfortunately his dad passed away on October 23, 1948.

Soon after returning from Mexico, 23 year old William "Bill" Cano was arrested in the nearby town of Benton, Louisiana and charged with "committing a crime against nature and contributing to the delinquency of an 11 year old boy".

Sometime after his 1948 arrest, Bill Cano left his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana for California. On the west coast, Mr. Cano was able to continued his association with young men through the YMCA. He remained there (on the west coast) for the rest of his life.

In December of 1950 Bill Cano went to Nevada to be married. He appeared in the Nevada State Journal newspaper three or four times in January of 1951, representing himself as a grandson of a 117 year old Shawnee Chief, of an Oklahoma tribe. On January 14th 1951, a news article appeared in the Nevada State Journal saying that "Sergeant William "Buffalo Boy" Cano was an Indian from Oklahoma who enlisted in 1940 from Fort Benning, Georgia. He has seen service in the European and Pacific theaters of war".

In 1953 William "Bill" Cano, now using the name "Chief Buffalo Boy Canoe" began a new job teaching young children judo in a Beverly Hills, California YMCA.


"Bill (Buffalo Boy) Cano " Courtesy Newspapers.com.
In 1951 Bill Cano is still using his given first and last names.

In 1958 Cornelius Ryan began to send out letters to Normandy veterans for his new book, "The Longest Day", about the Allies 1944 invasion of France.

While Bill Cano was in California, somehow he managed to get his name on the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, company E's, Poop Sheet newsletter mailing list.

In a letter to the researchers for "The Longest Day" book, Don Lassen, an E company veteran and publisher of the Poop Sheet, offered a copy of his mailing list in order to contact other veterans for the book project. Mr. Lassen advised researchers that all persons on his mailing list did not necessarily participate in the invasion of Normany, or for that matter, some names on the list were "never" members of the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. However, he was sure at least 90 percent of the names on his Poop Sheet list did participate.(in the invasion)

The name "Buffalo Boy Canoe" of 19 Wavecrest Avenue, Venice, California appears on the first page of E company's Poop Sheet. (double click here for page 1 of mailing list)

The Poop Sheet mailing list enabled William Cano to receive a questionnaire from the Cornelius Ryan researchers for the book "The Longest Day". As mentioned above, in the end, no part of the Buffalo Boy Canoe questionnaire was used in the "The Longest Day" book, they must have felt something wasn't right. Researchers made a note on page 3 where Mr. Canoe was asked 1) where was he on midnight June 5,1944 ?, and 2) where was he on midnight June 6,1944 ?. Clearly he did not answer the two questions correctly, because, most likely, he wasn't in Normandy, June 1944.

Below; the correct answer to the two questions in the above paragraph for a D company paratrooper would be;

1) Buffalo Boy Canoe should have been on a C-47 heading for Normandy, France.

2) Buffalo Boy Canoe should have been with D company on the ground in Normandy, either at Neuville au Plain with the 3rd platoon or with the 1st and 2nd platoons at a road block north of Ste. Mere Eglise.

Even though the Buffalo Boy Canoe questionnaire wasn't used in Cornelius Ryan's book "The Longest Day", the gold standard for Mr. William Cano was to have his alternate name "Technical Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe, 82nd Airborne" listed in the back of the book on page 307, among the brave Veteran's that served in the D-Day assault on Normandy, France June 6,1944.

 

The Bakersfield Californian newspaper, reported on Monday February 15, 1954, "Billy Buffalo Boy Canoe" an Oglala Sioux Indian, rescued 12 children, using a canoe(or was this a play on words), when heavy rains stranded them in the Beverly Hills YMCA.

On June 4th 1984, Buffalo Boy Canoe's mother passed away. In her obituary, family listed her son as Bill Cano of Los Angeles, California. Preferring not using his adopted name of "Buffalo Boy Canoe".

Here is how Bill Cano's name appears on his Social Security application file;                                                                      "William Cano [Buffalo Boy Canoe] [Buffalo Canoe]"

 

Below are some of the claims Buffalo Boy Canoe made between 1951 and 1999;

1)..He was the grandson of a 117 year old Shawnee Chief from an Oklahoma tribe.
2)..He was a full-blooded Oglala Sioux Indian from South Dakota.
3)..He was from a family of 15 children, six of the sons, served in combat around the world, during WW-II.
4)..He was the first Indian to play on the Oklahoma University football team.
5)..He made 583 parachute jumps and held the world's record for parachute jumps in 1951
6)..He may have been the only paratrooper to "hit the Utah Beach" on D-Day, June 6,1944 at 0100 hours. It seems that Buffalo Boy Canoe did not understand military time, 1300 a.m.(is 1:00 p.m.)
7)..He was a qualified jump master and a judo commando instructor during WW-II.
8)..He majored in physical education at Texas A & M and Oklahoma University.
9)..William Buffalo Boy Cano said he was "an Indian from Oklahoma when he enlisted in 1940" (In 1951 Bill Cano was still using his given first and last name in the above news article)
10)..He enlisted in 1940 from Fort Benning, Georgia. (Bill Cano was 15 years old in 1940.)
11)..He has seen (WW-II Army) service in the European and Pacific theaters of war.
12)..He scalped two German soldiers in Sicily, 1943.
13)..He received 2 Silver Star medals and 3 Purple Heart medals and a Bronze Star medal in WW-II.
14)..He parachuted from the same C-47 as the 505-PIR regimental commander, Jim Gavin.
15)..He was a Technical Sergeant (E-6) during WW-II.
16)..His father was an Oglala Sioux Chief. (His father was born in Burgos, Mexico.)
17)..He spent 8 years in the 82nd Airborne Division.
18)..He was wounded too many times to count in WW-II (page 7 of the questionnaire). On page 2 of the questionnaire he claims to have been wounded 9 times.
19)..He was discharged from the 505-PIR in July of 1948 after having 4 major operations.
20)..He had 3 brothers killed in WW-II. One in Europe and the other two in the Pacific.
21)..He was the most decorated Indian in the United States Army in 1951.
22)..He received a battle field commission to 1st Lieutenant, but was discharged as a Master Sgt.
23)..He made four combat jumps with the 505-Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The above 8 claims are from the Cornelius Ryan questionnaire on page 7. Some of the claims, were made prior to 1958, in "The Nevada State Journal" 1951)
24)..He now claims to have five Silver Star medals and six Purple Heart medals in October of 1994 at a press conference announcing the return of the Vietnam moving wall to San Joaquin county, California.
25)..He is one of the few survivors of the combat jump into Sicily, July 1943.
26)..He claimed to be a highly decorated veteran of 3 wars, including Vietnam, in November of 1994, at the Stockton California location of the Vietnam moving wall.
27)..For the last time, November 12,1999 at 75 years of age, Buffalo Boy Canoe is quoted in the California press on Veterans Day, as "serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in WW-II, Korea and Vietnam. He mentions once more, the three brothers he lost during WW-II. In all his 48 years of press clippings (1951 - 1999) he never once mentioned his brother, Richard, who was killed in action February,1945 in the Pacific theater. Why? most likely it would have led to the uncovering of his given name "William Cano"


Here is a 1964 photo of Buffalo Boy Canoe wearing Sioux Chieftain headgear.

 

In 1984, the Reagan administration gave Buffalo Boy Canoe a $24,000.00 a year job, helping the government locate native American Indians who might benefit from the recently enacted Job Training and Partnership Act, the replacement program for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973, and an accompanying veterans employment program.


     

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The following heroic prose is from the book, "Drop Zone Sicily" published in 1983.

Through no fault of the publisher or author, It may not contain one drop of truth;

 

Elsewhere in the ominous darkness, many miles east of the DZ, Sergeant Buffalo Boy Canoe, a full-blooded Oglala Sioux Indian from South Dakota (from a family of 15 children, six of the sons serving in combat around the world), was shaking the cobwebs from his head after parachuting onto a boulder strewn terrain with tremendous impact.

Peering around into the blackness, Sergeant Canoe concluded that he was alone except for enemy soldiers on three sides. The young warrior was spotted only seconds after landing, tracer bullets were soon whistling past his body lying flat on the ground. He leveled his carbine in the direction of the nearest enemy automatic weapons, even though in the darkness he could not see the gun crew. Could do squeeze the trigger and the carbine jammed. A surge of apprehension gripped him. With hostile soldiers on three sides, all Canoe had to defend himself with was a trench knife and a few grenades.

Crawling on his stomach and crouching low to present a smaller target, Canoe edged away from the site and soon melted into the night. About half a mile from where he had landed, the young sergeant detected the shouting the shadowy outline of a small farmhouse, its windows illuminated by a faint glow from within. He silently crept up to a window and saw three Germans inside, laughing, talking and lifting wine bottles to their lips.

Sergeant Canoe concealed himself in the shadows nearby, and moments later the front door opened. One of the Germans, reeling slightly, emerge, walked a few yards from the house, and began to relieve himself. That was to be his last act on earth.

Although suffering from a leg injury sustained on landing, the 21-year-old parachutist, in the manner of his Indian forefathers, stealthily crept up on the unsuspecting German. In his hand Canoe clutched his trench knife. With a loud whoop, Canoe charge the enemy soldier, threw him to the ground, and plunged his sharp pointed knife into the unlucky fellow. The German made a gurgling noise, rolled over and died.

The ruckus was heard by two Germans inside the farmhouse, who came out warily to investigate. Slowly the enemy soldiers edged out of the door, automatic weapons in hand, as the American watched from nearby shadows.

One of the Germans called out in a low voice "Ludwig, kummen zie hier!" And,(come here at once!). There was no reply. In a slightly alarmed tone the other German called out, "Ludwig, kummen zie!" The only sound was the gentle rustle of tree leaves shimmering in the light breeze. Suddenly the stillness was shattered. A loud explosion and a brilliant orange flame engulfed the two Germans. Sergeant Canoe had tossed a grenade which found its mark. The pair crumbled to the ground like rag dolls, dead.

Knowing that the grenade blast might attract more Germans to the farmhouse, Canoe hurried off into the darkness. Hit and run battle tactics inherited from his Indian antecedents and refined through months of paratrooper training told him the wisest course of action was to move on. Walking alertly through the darkness, eyes constantly attuned for possible enemy ambushes, Canoe eventually encountered three fellow members of Colonel Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Huddled in the shadows of a clump of olive trees, two of the troopers were seriously wounded and the third was slightly injured.

Tired from his recent endeavors and not knowing his location, Sergeant Canoe sat down next to a baby faced young trooper of Italian extraction who appeared to be still in his teens. The youth's jumpsuit was saturated with blood and he lay motionless. By the light of the moon rays seeping through the branches, Canoe could see that the badly wounded youths face was ashen. He obviously was dying. Sergeant Canoe, the tough paratrooper, gently took the young trooper into his arms and cradled his head with the tenderness a mother would bestow upon her infant child. The sergeant could detect the youth's lips moving almost imperceptibly and hear the almost inaudible words, "Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be Thy Name…....."

"Joe's from New Jersey," the lightly wounded companion of the dying trooper whispered to Canoe. It was as though the other man did not want the youth to die without someone else knowing his home state. "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…." Silence. The teenaged All-American died cuddled in Sergeant Canoe's protective arms. Despite his excruciating pain, not once had the youth whimpered or cried out in anguish.



 

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