Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind
Submitted by: Tanveer Kalo
Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind was one of the first Asian Indian soldiers and first turbaned Sikh to serve in the United States Army during the First World War.
Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind was born on October 3, 1892 in Taragarh, Punjab, British India. Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind arrived to Seattle, Washington on July 14, 1913 on board the ship Minnesota from Manila, Philippines. His younger brother, Jagat Singh Thind died onboard the ship Komagata Maru, which had been forced to turn back from Canada in 1914 because of country’s racial laws. When the ship returned to India, the British government thought the Indians on board the ship were attempting incite revolutionary activities, and a riot broke up out. Many were killed and jailed, including Jagat Singh Thind. Dr. Thind came to the United States for higher education to become a spiritual teacher and scholar. He made his way to Oregon and eventually settled in California later in life.
Dr. Thind came to the United States for higher education to become a spiritual teacher and scholar. When America entered the war, Dr. Thind was studying at the University of California, Berkeley for metaphysics, spirituality, and religion and it is safe to assume that he wanted to serve his new home and uphold the strong warrior tradition of the Sikh faith. He enlisted in the United States Army when the country entered the war in the 1917. He trained at Camp Lewis in Washington state but did not see overseas action. He also listed in October 1918 issue of the newspaper and journal Young India with other Asians serving in the U.S military during the war. Dr. Thind was one of the thousands of Indian Sikhs that bravely served in the war, but he was the first turbaned Sikh to serve in the U.S during the war. Dr. Thind received an Honorable Discharge with the of rank of acting sergeant in 1918 when the war ended.
Following his service in the military, Dr. Thind’s attempted to gain U.S citizenship. During this period, Asian Indians were considered Caucasian and many of them obtained naturalization. Dr. Thind gained naturalization in 1920 through the U.S District Court of Oregon. However, the Bureau of Naturalization appealed his naturalization on the grounds that he was not white.
Dr. Thind fought back against the appeal and his case reached the United States Supreme Court. In 1923 the case Bhagat Singh vs. the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the "common man's" definition of "white" did not correspond to "Caucasian" and therefore he could not apply for naturalization. He finally obtained in U.S citizenship in 1936 in the state of New York. On March 16, 1940 Dr. Thind married Vivan Davis in the Collingwood Presbyterian Church in Toledo, Ohio. He died on September 15, 1967 in Los Angeles, California.
Throughout his life he published and lectured on the subjects of metaphysics, spirituality and religion. Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind was a pioneer in being one of the first Asian Indians and the first turbaned Sikh to serve in the United States Army, and then leading the fight for citizenship for Asian Indians.
His son has published a web site about Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind.