Committee ChairpersonLinks Section
Code Talkers / Extra Offerings
Choctaw Code Talkers - 1919 (WWI)
Use of the Native Indian Tongue for Secure Communications
Secure and rapid communications are essential to effective operation on the battlefield, and military forces are working constantly to develop communications systems, methods, and techniques which will insure that an enemy does not gain access to friendly intentions. While , cryptography is one of the standard means of maintaining security, it takes time--a critical element in military operations--to encode and decode messages from prearranged codes, and codes are subject to being broken. The most desirable method is direct and open on-the-spot transmission by voice over telephone or radio, and such a procedure must recognize that the enemy is always listening in.
To confound the enemy, American forces in both World Wars used Indian personnel and their unique languages to insure secure communications. In World War I in France, the 142d Infantry Regiment had a company of Indians who spoke 26 different languages or dialects, only four or five of which had been reduced to writing. Two Indian officers were selected to supervise a communications system staffed by Choctaw Indians. They were used in the regiment's operations in October 1918, in the Chufilly-Chardeny zone, transmitting in their native tongue a variety of open. voice messages, relating to unit movements, which the enemy, who was completely surprised in the action, obviously could not break.
In World War II in both major theaters of war, the U. S. Army used Indians in its signal communications operations. A group of 24 Navajos was assembled to handle telephone communications, using voice codes in their native tongue, between the Air Commander in the Solomon Islands and various airfields in the region. The U. S. Marine Corps also used Navajo code talkers extensively in the Pacific Theater. And in Europe, the 4th Signal Company of the Army's 4th Infantry Division was assigned 16 Comanches for employment as voice radio operators to transmit and receive messages in their own unwritten language.
The Armed Services ran special training courses both in the United States and in the operational theaters to instruct Indians in the basic communications techniques and to develop standard military phraseology and common military terms for the languages and dialects where such words may never have existed. The success of the experiment in using Indian code talkers is attested to in the reports of military units and commanders in the several services.
For further reading:
Navajo Code Talkers - 1943
Corporal Henry Bahe, Jr. (left) and Private First Class George H. Kirk, Navajos serving with a Marine Signal Unit, operate a portable radio set in a clearing they've hacked in the dense jungle close behind the front lines.
Examples from Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary
TORPEDO / LO-BE-CA = FISH SHELL
CONDITION / AH-HO-TAI = HOW IT IS
BATTLESHIP / LO-TSO = WHALE
RUSSIA / SILA-GOL-CHI-IH = RED ARMY
COLONEL / ATSAH-BESH-LE-GAI = SILVER EAGLE
ROUTE / GAH-BIH-TKEEN / RABBIT TRAIL
BRITAIN / TOH-TA / BETWEEN WATERS
DIVE BOMBER / GINI / CHICKEN HAWK
TANK DESTROYER / CHAY-DA-GAHI-NAIL-TSAIDI / TORTOISE KILLER
CORPS / DIN-NEH-IH / CLAN
...more to come!
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
'Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?
Soon 'round the world, the children would play,
I couldn't help but wonder, how many lay alone,
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more,
I kept watch for hours, silent and still,
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
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