Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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The late Schlicht Billy was last living Choctaw Code Talker of World War II
BISHINIK March 2000

Although the Choctaws are recognized for being the first to use their native language in World War I as an unbreakable code to fool the Germans, not everyone realizes that the Choctaw language was again utilized in World War II.

Schlicht Billy, a World War II veteran who lived in Blanco, Oklahoma at the time of his death, said he often conversed in Choctaw when using field radios to coordinate military maneuvers. Most often, Davis Pickens, also now deceased, was o n the other radio. Since Pickens was a machine gunner, he was usually positioned where he could do the most damage to the enemy. Speaking the Choctaw language, the men were able to give exact details and locations without fear of the Germans intercepting the conversations.

“Most of the time we used radios for short range communications,” said Billy.

Billy, who attended both Jones Academy and Chilocco Indian Schools, was wounded four times during the war. He received many commendations, including a Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Ribbon and European African Medal with a cluster of five Bronze Stars.

Second Lt. Schlicht Billy commanded the first Platoon in Company F, known as the Fox Company, 180th Infantry Division. According to Billy, his regiment experienced 511 days of actual combat.

Describing his foreign military service, Schlicht Billy said his Infantry left Africa and invaded Sicily, then went o n to Salerno, Italy (which is below Naples), then participated in the landing at Anzio, where Billy said some of the hardest battles were fought. Billy said he and the other soldiers spent about four months in the Anzio area before they finally broke out in May of ’44 and headed to Rome, where they waded the Tiber River and helped liberate the city. After taking Rome, the soldiers in Billy’s combat unit were brought back to Anzio where they regained combat strength and received replacements of clothing and equipment to prepare for the initial invasion of France.

Schlicht Billy was especially noted for his contribution to the attack of the Siegfried line o n March 17, 1945. The Siegfried line was a great number of reinforced concrete pillboxes placed to support and defend each other and linked together by head-high trenches. The concrete o n each pillbox was six feet thick and rifle grenades were not effective. According to the book, “Story of the 180th,” …

On March 17th, our Regiment advanced with our Second Battalion o n the left and our Third Battalion o n the right. Our Second Battalion moved north of Seelbach and immediately ran into heavy fire from the pillboxes of the Siegfried Line o n the hills south of the line town of Nieder Wurzbach. Upon receiving fire from the pillboxes of the Siegfried, the Second launched an attack.

Second Lt. Schlicht Billy of McAlester, Oklahoma, Company F, was given the mission of taking the first pillboxes with his platoon. The German artillery mortar and machine gun fire was intense and began to pin Billy’s men down after they had advanced a short distance. Several of them were hit. The brave Indian officer immediately reorganized his men and again led them forward. He led his platoon until it was approximately fifty yards from the pillbox that had been doing the most damage. Then he suddenly dashed through the machine gun fire, reached the opening of the pillbox and threw a hand grenade into it which caused the Germans within to come out with their hands clasped over their heads in surrender. Billy received the Silver Star. By 4 p.m., due to Billy’s courageous leadership, Company F possessed o ne of the pillboxes of the highly touted Siegfried Line.