Native American Code Talkers

Laura mentioned the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II and that recognition for their help in winning the war was a long time coming. 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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  1. Posted January 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

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  5. Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    It was really good to read about that. Well, I appreciate that you spent some of your time for readers. Thank you

  6. Posted November 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    So much more of how so many Native folks played such a big role in helping to win world war 2 should be taught in all of our schools. Unfortunately it's not so many of our Native heroes will forever be forgotten. Beyond ashame!

  7. Posted January 1, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Very nice article, just what I wanted to find.

  8. Posted June 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Mr. Wolf Guts for service and courage.

  9. Posted January 15, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Actual “Code Talking” should be more rigidly defined. The Native American heroes who have served in all conflicts should be greatly honored, but, not all of them used an actual coded system. It dishonors all to misrepresent the efforts of those warriors. –SSG C.L. “Kit” Carson; USMC/USA Ret.

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