Joined: Nov 14, 2006 Posts: 6687 Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:32 pm Post subject: Honoring Native American Code Talkers
In the closing days of World War I, fourteen Choctaw Indian men in the Army's Thirty-Sixth Division, trained to use their language, helped the American Expeditionary Force win several key battles in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France, the final big German push of the war. The fourteen Choctaw Code Talkers were Albert Billy, Mitchell Bobb, Victor Brown, Ben Caterby, James Edwards, Tobias Frazer, Ben Hampton, Solomon Louis, Pete Maytubby, Jeff Nelson, Joseph Oklahombi, Robert Taylor, Calvin Wilson, and Walter Veach.
With at least one Choctaw man placed in each field company headquarters, they handled military communications by field telephone, translated radio messages into the Choctaw language, and wrote field orders to be carried by "runners" between the various companies. The German army, which captured about one out of four messengers, never deciphered the messages written in Choctaw.
The Choctaws were recognized as the first to use their native language as an unbreakable code in World War I. The Choctaw language was again used in World War II. Choctaws conversed in their language over field radios to coordinate military positions, giving exact details and locations without fear of German interception.
1939 to 1945
The Army taps Hopi, Choctaw, Comanche, Kiowa, Winnebago, Seminole, Navajo and Cherokee Americans to use their languages as secret code in World War II. The Marines rely on Navajos to create and memorize a code based on the complex Navajo language.
During the annual Choctaw Labor Day Festival in 1986, Chief Hollis E. Roberts presented posthumous Choctaw Nation Medals of Valor to the families of the Code Talkers. This was the first official recognition the Choctaw Code Talkers had been given. On November 3, 1989, in recognition of the important role the Choctaw Code Talkers played during World War I, the French government presented Chief Roberts with the "Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Merite" (the Knight of the National Order of Merit), the highest honor France can bestow.
Long before the days of the Second World War and Americaâ€™s historic use of Navajo Code Talkers, there was a group of eight men who helped shape the end of the First World War. These eight men were of the Choctaw nation and their use was a spur of the moment thing by a company commander, Captain Lawrence.
The Germans at the time were making a final big push in the Argonne area and things were not looking good for the Allies. It had been discovered that the Germans had not only broken the American radio codes but also tapped the telephone lines. To make matters worse, they were able to consistently capture 25% of the messengers who ran between the various companies on the battlefield.
Within the American Expeditionary Force during the Mousse-Argonne campaign while virtually surrounded by Germans, Captain Lawrence was walking through the field in which his company was positioned and happened to overhear a strange language between two of his soldiers. The language was the native tongue of the Choctaw people and the names of the soldiers were Corporal Solomon Lewis and Private First Class Mitchell Bobb.
After listening to the language for quite some time, inspiration struck the Captain who asked Corporal Lewis to go with him. Legend has it that he asked, â€śCorporal, how many of you Choctaw boys do we have in this battalion?â€ť
After going back to speak with Mitchell Bobb, Lewis was able to tell Captain Lawrence of eight men they knew for sure were fluent in the language. In response to the Captainâ€™s questions, it was believed that there were two Choctaw men at headquarters company who happened to be ones that Lewis knew were also fluent in the native language. These men were Smithville Ben Carterby and Kullitukle Pete Maytubby.
Immediately getting on the telephone to headquarters Captain Lawrence confirmed Carterby and Maytubbyâ€™s were indeed attached to the Headquarters Company.
Captain Lawrence then reportedly â€śtoldâ€ť his commanding officer to get them together and have them stand by because he had an idea that he was sure would get them some relief from the Germans.
His idea was simple. Captain Lawrence planned to dictate English messages to Lewis and Bobb who would then relay them to Carterby and Maytubby in Choctaw. The latter two men were to then translate the message back into English for the Battalion Commander. As the Choctaw soldiers spoke twenty-six various dialects of the native language of which only three of these had ever been put into a written form, there was little worry that the Germans would be able to understand or break the code.
After wording his historic message, Captain Lawrence gave it to Private Bobb who then used a field phone to relay the first Choctaw code message of the war to Ben Carterby at headquarters.
With the instant success of Captain Lawrenceâ€™s idea, the eight Choctaw men who were fluent in their native language were reassigned so each of the field company headquarters would have a code talker.
Although the Choctaw languages had no translatable words for artillery, machine guns, or battalions, substitutes were soon found. Artillery became â€śbig gun," machine gun was â€ślittle gun shoot fastâ€ť and the battalions were turned into one, two or three grains of corn.
The first official use of the Choctaw Code Talkers was to order the withdrawal of two companies from the second battalion back to Chardeny on the night of October 26, 1918. This withdrawal was able to be carried out without mishap and by such, supported Captain Lawrenceâ€™s idea of using the Choctaws. On October 27, the men were used extensively to plan an attack that came as a complete surprise to the Germans at Forrest Fern.
These eight men who would make such a difference in the Alliesâ€™ war effort were:
Corporal Solomon Lewis
Private Bennington Mitche Bobb
Smithville Ben Carterby
Wright City Robert Taylor
Bokchito Jeff Nelson
Kullitukle Pete Maytubby
Broken Bow James Edwards
Ida Calvin Wilson Goodwater
These historic men soon found their new duties were far from simple. They soon began handling and translating all the field telephone calls from Choctaw to English as well as having to write and translate the written field orders that were then carried by the â€śrunnersâ€ť between the different companies.
Meanwhile back at the front the Germans were alarmed by the turn of events. From easily breaking all the American codes they were now running in circles trying to break the newest one. Their top code breakers were all stumped as to what this new â€ścodeâ€ť was and had no inkling on how to break it.
Less than 48 hours after Captain Lawrence had first approached Corporal Lewis to begin sending the messages and orders in the Choctaw language, the Germans sure fire feeling of victory had become the agony of defeat. Within 72 hours they were in full retreat of the attacking American and Allied forces.
Although the Choctaw Code Talkers were only used in the Mousse-Argonne campaign and this was literally during the last days of the war, there are no other records of the Code being used at any other time.
The shameful act on the part of the United States is that although these eight men were highly praised by their company and battalion commanders with promises of medals, no further recognition for their services were ever given.
There can be little doubt as to these menâ€™s importance, not only in the First World War, but also in the Second. If not for the success of the Choctaw Code Talkers, how likely is it that another Native American language, Navajo, would be used in the Second World War?
Use of Cherokee
The first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire was a group of Cherokee troops utilized by the American 30th Infantry Division serving alongside the British during the Second Battle of the Somme. According to the Division Signal Officer, this took place in September 1918. Their outfit was under British command at the time.
Use of Choctaw
Choctaws in training in World War I for coded radio and telephone transmissions.In the days of World War I, company commander Captain Lawrence of the U. S. Army overheard Solomon Louis and Mitchell Bobb conversing in the Choctaw language. He found eight Choctaw men in the battalion. Eventually, fourteen Choctaw men in the Army's 36th Infantry Division trained to use their language in code. They helped the American Expeditionary Force win several key battles in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France, during the final big German push of the war. Within 24 hours after the Choctaw language was pressed into service, the tide of the battle had turned. In less than 72 hours the Germans were retreating and the Allies were in full attack.
Use of Comanche
Comanche code-talkers of the 4th Signal Company (U.S. Army Signal Center and Ft. Gordon)
Hugh F. Foster Jr.'s Comanche code bookAdolf Hitler knew about the successful use of code talkers during World War I. He sent a team of some thirty anthropologists to learn Native American languages before the outbreak of World War II. However, it proved too difficult for them to learn the many languages and dialects that existed. Because of Nazi German anthropologists' attempts to learn the languages, the U.S. Army did not implement a large-scale code talker program in the European Theater. Fourteen Comanche code talkers took part in the Invasion of Normandy, and continued to serve in the 4th Infantry Division during further European operations. Comanches of the 4th Signal Company compiled a vocabulary of over 100 code terms using words or phrases in their own language. Using a substitution method similar to the Navajo, the Comanche code word for tank was "turtle", bomber was "pregnant airplane", machine gun was "sewing machine" and Adolf Hitler became "crazy white man."
Two Comanche code-talkers were assigned to each regiment, the rest to 4th Infantry Division headquarters. Shortly after landing on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, the Comanches began transmitting messages. Some were wounded but none killed.
In 1989, the French government awarded the Comanche code-talkers the Chevalier of the National Order of Merit. On 30 November, 1999, the United States Department of Defense presented Charles Chibitty with the Knowlton Award.
Use of Meskwaki
Meskwaki men used their language against the Germans in North Africa. Twenty-seven Meskwaki, then 16% of Iowa's Meskwaki population, enlisted in the U.S. Army together in January 1941.
Use of Basque
Captain Frank D. Carranza conceived the idea of using the Basque language for codes in May 1942 upon meeting about 60 US Marines of Basque ancestry in a San Francisco camp. His superiors were justifiably wary. There were 35 Basque Jesuits in Hiroshima, led by Pedro Arrupe. In China and the Philippines, there was a colony of Basque jai alai players and there were Basque supporters of Falange in Asia. The American Basque code talkers were kept from these theaters; they were initially used in tests and in transmitting logistic information for Hawaii and Australia.
On August 1, 1942, Lieutenants Nemesio Aguirre, FernĂˇndez Bakaicoa and Juanna received a Basque-coded message from San Diego for Admiral Chester Nimitz warning him of the upcoming Operation Apple to remove the Japanese from the Solomon Islands. They also translated the start date, 7, August, for the attack on Guadalcanal. As the war extended over the Pacific, there was a shortage of Basque speakers and the parallel Navajo program came to be preferred.
Use of Navajo
General Douglas MacArthur met with Native American code talkers in late 1943. Pictured: one man each from the Pima, Pawnee and Chitimacha peoples, and two Navajo men.
Page two of Navajo recommendation letter, 1942.Philip Johnston proposed the use of Navajo to the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. Johnston, a World War I veteran, was raised on the Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary to the Navajos, and was one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently. Because Navajo has a complex grammar, is nearly a language isolate, and was an unwritten language, Johnston saw Navajo as answering the military requirement for an undecipherable code. Navajo was spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest, and its syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training. One estimate indicates that at the outbreak of World War II fewer than 30 non-Navajos, none of them Japanese, could understand the language.
Early in 1942, Johnston met with Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, and his staff. Johnston staged tests under simulated combat conditions which demonstrated that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds, versus the 30 minutes required by machines at that time. The idea was accepted, with Vogel recommending that the Marines recruit 200 Navajos. The first 29 Navajo recruits attended boot camp in May 1942. This first group then created the Navajo code at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. The Navajo code was formally developed and modeled on the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet that uses agreed-upon English words to represent letters. As it was determined that phonetically spelling out all military terms letter by letter into wordsâ€”while in combatâ€”would be too time consuming, some terms, concepts, tactics and instruments of modern warfare were given uniquely formal descriptive nomenclatures in Navajo (the word for "potato" being used to refer to a hand grenade, or "tortoise" to a tank, for example). Several of these portmanteaus (such as gofasters referring to running shoes, ink sticks for pens) entered Marine corps vocabulary and are commonly used today to refer to the appropriate objects.
A codebook was developed to teach the many relevant words and concepts to new initiates. The text was for classroom purposes only, and was never to be taken into the field. The code talkers memorized all these variations and practiced their rapid use under stressful conditions during training. Uninitiated Navajo speakers would have no idea what the code talkers' messages meant; they would hear only truncated and disjointed strings of individual, unrelated nouns and verbs.
The Navajo code talkers were commended for their skill, speed and accuracy accrued throughout the war. At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor later stated, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."
As the war progressed, additional code words were added on and incorporated program-wide. In other instances, informal short-cut code words were devised for a particular campaign and not disseminated beyond the area of operation. To ensure a consistent use of code terminologies throughout the Pacific Theater, representative code talkers of each of the U.S. Marine divisions met in Hawaii to discuss shortcomings in the code, incorporate new terms into the system, and update their codebooks. These representatives in turn trained other code talkers who could not attend the meeting.
The deployment of the Navajo code talkers continued through the Korean War and after, until it was ended early in the Vietnam War.
Joined: Jan 21, 2007 Posts: 3987 Location: Kansas City MO
Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:33 pm Post subject:
Very amazing post, thanks for sharing such interesting information. And my hat off to the code talkers. _________________ IF YOU DON'T STAND BEHIND OUR TROOPS, PLEASE, FEEL FREE TO STAND IN FRONT OF THEM !!!
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