Joseph Oklahombi from Wright City known as greatest WWI hero of state
BISHINIK March 2000
Joseph Oklahombi, from Wright City has been lauded as Oklahoma’s greatest war hero of World War I. He received citations from General John J. Pershing and French Marchall Pertain for his action in the St. Etienne sector in France.
A month before the armistice in 1918, Oklahombi and his buddies in Company D, 141st Infantry, 36th Division, were cut off from the rest of the company. They came across a German machine gun emplacement, with about 50 trench mortars. The American soldiers captured o ne gun and turned its fire back o n the Germans. For four days they held the enemy down, until help finally came. Of the enemy, 171 were taken prisoner.
General orders cited Oklahombi for his bravery in moving about 200 yards of open territory, braving machine gun and artillery fire. He was awarded the Silver Star to be worn o n the Victory Ribbon by General Pershing, and the Croix de Guerre from Marshall Pertain. Medals were reissued to his son, Jonah, in 1992 and are currently o n display at the Choctaw Capitol Museum at Tushka Homma.
Oklahombi, o n returning to his homeland, was another soldier home from the war – no triumphant entry into the port of New York, no bands playing nor ticker tape parade.
He was merely another soldier from the war making his way back to his home in the Kiamichi Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma to be with his wife and son. Joseph settled back to a life of farming, hunting and fishing.
As this country grew nearer the brink of war in 1940, Oklahombi was called upon to give his views of another conflict. “The United States must prepare itself and really prepare immediately,” he said. “Of course, I’m not in favor of war, but if the peace of the United States is molested, we must be prepared to defend ourselves.”
Besides his fighting activities in Europe during the war, Oklahombi was valuable to Allied Troops because of his Indian background. Allies used the Choctaw language as a code for messages – a code never broken by the German intelligence officers.
Oklahombi was killed in an accident near his home on April 13, 1960.