Native American Code Talkers

Recognition for the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II and their help in winning the war was a long time coming. But since their recognition, public interest in these code talker-heroes has been high. But did you know that Veterans from many different tribes served as code talkers?

According to the Code Talkers Recognition Act, the first reported use of code talkers was on October 17, 1918, during World War I when the Choctaw helped defeat German forces in Europe. On December 7, 1941, the U.S. Army called on the Comanche to develop a code based on their language. During World War II, all of these tribes contributed to the Allied efforts through the use of their Native tongues:  Assiniboine, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chippewa/Oneida, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Crow, Hopi, Kiowa, Menominee, Meskwaki, Mississauga, Muscogee, Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, Seminole, and Sioux.

Clarence Wolf Guts was one of 11 Sioux code talkers from South Dakota. Originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation, he served in the U.S. Army and helped develop a phonetic alphabet based on Lakota that was later used to develop a Lakota code. Reportedly, when the World Trade Towers fell on September 11, 2001, Clarence asked his son to call the DoD to see if the United States needed his code talking abilities to find Osama Bin Laden. Then in his 70s, Clarence “was still being patriotic.”

Just recently, the Arizona state legislature also recognized the Hopi code talkers. The families of the 10 Hopi code talkers were recognized and honored for their service during World War II in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Corps. Like many tribes, the Hopi have served in World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and the war in Iraq.

This news interview with U.S. Marine Joe Vandever, Sr., a Navajo code talker, illustrates how the Navajo language was applied to create an unbreakable code, and how Joe helped deliver the code from 3 battleships. This video is one of many on YouTube honoring the Navajo code talkers.

We appreciate the honor with which Native American veterans serve this country. The code talker success is yet one more mark of the ingenuity and resilience that has characterized the tribes for centuries.

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