Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Choctaws - The Original Code Talkers

IN DEFENSE OF OUR LAND AND PEOPLE

Choctaws were the original Code Talkers The first to use their native language as an unbroken “code” in wartime.
The Choctaws were the original Code-Talkers, the very first soldiers to use their native language to transmit messages to confuse the enemy. The Choctaw language used in WWI was the o nly “code” never translated by the German Army.

In the closing days of World War I, Choctaw Indians were instrumental in helping the American Expeditionary Force to win several Key battles in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, which proved to be the final big German push of that war. These valiant Native American soldiers were the now famous Choctaw Code-Talkers. The eighteen men who have been documented as Choctaw Code-Talkers were: Robert Taylor, Otis Leader, Jeff Nelson, Calvin Wilson, Mitchell Bobb, Pete Maytubby, Solomon Louis, James Edwards, Ben Carterby, Walter Veach, Albert Billy, Ben Hampton, Joseph Oklahombi, Victor Brown, Tobias Frazier, Joe Davenport, George Davenport, Noel Johnson.

Normally, the Division would have been trained in a quieter sector, but due to the crisis situation at Ferme Forest along the Aisne River, the Thirty-Sixth Division was moved immediately to the front line of the battle. The Germans had strong positions and the Americans had to cross a wide stretch of unprotected land to attack. Heavy artillery force from the 142nd Infantry was the o nly cover the American soldiers had during the attack. According to the book, “World War I: the Thirty-Sixth Division,” The shellfire kept the Germans pinned down, and there was little opposition except for the wire entanglements. The Americans were in the enemy trenches before the Germans emerged from their shelters, and with the barrage preventing any counterattack the men reached the objective and consolidated the position.

During the assault the Americans uncovered many German communication lines. Suspicious as to why the enemy would leave them in such an exposed area, Colonel A. W. Bloor, the commander of the 142nd Infantry reasoned that they had been left behind deliberately.

The Germans, he thought, hoped that the Americans would tap into the lines for their own communication network. They, in turn, would be able to monitor the American conversations. Colonel Bloor was correct, and although the Americans utilized the captured enemy telephone lines for their own communications system, Bloor prevented any leak of information by using Choctaw members of Company E to transmit messages in their Indian dialect. The tactic was a resounding success, and later a captured German officer confessed that his intelligence personnel were completely confused by the Indian language and gained no benefit whatsoever from their wiretaps.

At least o ne Choctaw man was placed in each field company headquarters. Not o nly did these Choctaw men handle military communication by field telephone, the also translated radio messages in to the Choctaw language and wrote field orders to be carried by “runners” between the various companies. Having the messages written in Choctaw was a great asset to the Americans, as the Germans were capturing about o ne out of every four messengers sent out as runners between the various companies o n the battle line. The German Army never did decipher the messages given in Choctaw.

The Choctaw Code-Talkers received praise from their company commanders and the battalion commander. Although the code-talkers were promised medals for their contributions to end the war, they were never received. In 1986, during the annual Choctaw Labor Day Festival, posthumous Choctaw Nation Medals of Valor were presented to the families of the original code-talkers. The Choctaw Nation takes great pride in accepting the honor of the “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite” from the French Government in recognition of the important role the Choctaw Code-Talkers played in the successful conclusion of WWI. This was given in November of 1989 at a ceremony o n the front steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol building. This is the highest honor France can bestow from their nation to another.