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'Secret weapon'Choctaw code talkers aided U.S. forces in WWI

 
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Emiel



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BerichtGeplaatst: 24 Jan 2007 19:25    Onderwerp: 'Secret weapon'Choctaw code talkers aided U.S. forces in WWI Reageer met quote

'Secret weapon'Choctaw code talkers aided U.S. forces in WWI

By Art Chapman
Star-Telegram Staff Writer


COURTESY OKLAHOMA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Choctaw code talkers helped solve the problem of Germans intercepting American messages in World War I.


In 1917, Fort Worth newspapers were filled with the fear of war. German submarines were spotted in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Dallas it was announced that a hiker had been arrested as a spy. He had maps of the area and was in Fort Worth just days before his arrest.

On April, 5, it was reported that federal agents had followed three men around the Fort Worth Stockyards. The strangers simply looked different from the other cattlemen.

One of those men turned out to be Otis Leader, a large Choctaw Indian from Oklahoma. Not only was he not a spy, but he went on to become one of the United States' most successful weapons against the Germans in World War I. He became a member of the Choctaw code talkers, a secret American unit that has been surprisingly overlooked by history.

Leader did stand out as he walked through Fort Worth's north side. He was 6-foot-3,, gregarious, warm and personable. He was traveling with two naturalized U.S. citizens from Switzerland who owned a ranch in Pittsburg County, Okla. Leader worked for the two men, who were at the Stockyards to purchase cattle.

Federal agents called the Pittsburg County sheriff to ask about the men. The sheriff just laughed. He knew Leader well, and he knew that the Choctaw was far from dangerous.

Leader had been contemplating joining the Army, said great-niece Tewanna Anderson-Edwards of Shawnee, Okla. He was 34, a bit older than the average recruit, but he had recently lost his wife and needed to move on with his life. The incident in Fort Worth was reason enough, he figured, to enlist.

Not long after, he was in the trenches of northern France fighting Germans.

Judy Allen, executive director of public relations for the Choctaw Nation, has studied the history of the code talkers. She has visited many of their families.

"They say that the German forces were intercepting every message the Americans were sending," she said. "It was costing thousands of American lives. Then one day, an officer overheard a group of Choctaws talking. He couldn't understand a word of what they were saying, and it was like a light bulb went on over his head."

The officer called the Choctaws together and asked them about their language. He learned that it was not written and that only those who were born to it understood it. The Choctaw warriors agreed to become the voice of the American troops. The men came up with their own codes -- words for military equipment, for example, for which there were no Choctaw equivalents.

"Within days," Allen said, "the battles turned, and lives were saved."

There were 18 code talkers. When the war was over, they went home and never spoke of their experience. One reason for their reticence, Anderson-Edwards said, was that they were humble. She said her great-uncle never spoke of his experience in the war.

Allen said: "They were all told not to talk about it. That's why their story has never been told. Communications is a very effective weapon -- their code was never broken by the German army -- and the Army treated the code talkers as though they were a secret weapon that might be needed again in another war."

The Army was right. In World War II, more than a dozen American Indian tribes contributed troops who served as code talkers, the most famous of whom were the Navajos, who fought as Marines in the Pacific. The Navajo code talkers have been recognized by the federal government for their contribution to the war, but the other nations -- including the Choctaws in WWI -- have been overlooked.

Allen said there was a bill before Congress last year to recognize all the other tribes whose members worked as code talkers. It passed the Senate but died in committee in the House. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth. She is expected to reintroduce the bill this session, Allen said.

Catherine Knowles, legislative assistant for Granger, said Friday that the congresswoman was definitely planning on reintroducing the code talker bill.

choctawnation.com

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/state/16506799.htm
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Roma



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BerichtGeplaatst: 24 Jan 2007 20:35    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Choctaw Indian Code Talkers of World War I

By Phillip Allen

In 1917, Choctaw Indians were not citizens of the United States. The language the Choctaws spoke was considered obsolete. That same language later helped bring about a successful end to the first World War (Allen) Of more than 10,000 Native Americans serving in WWI, a number of Choctaw soldiers “confounded German eavesdroppers”. (Flaherty).

When speaking of going into battle, you can almost be assured that communications is an important weapon. It can be used to defeat your enemy, or it can destroy you. During WWI, the Germans were able to decipher all of the allied forces’ coded communications. Then something almost miraculous happened. A group of 19 young Choctaw men appeared o­n the scene, using their own language to transmit messages that the Germans were never able to decipher (“Choctaws”).

Native Americans including Choctaws, were not allowed to vote until 1924 – although years before this they volunteered to fight for what they considered their country, land and people (Allen). According to tribal documents, there were 19 Choctaw Code Talkers: Tobias Frazier, Victor Brown, Joseph Oklahombi, Otis Leader, Ben Hampton, Albert Billy, Walter Veach, Ben Carterby, James Edwards, Solomon Louis, Peter Maytubby, Mitchell Bobb, Calvin Wilson, Jeff Nelson, Joseph Davenport, George Davenport, Noel Johnson, Schlicht Billy and Robert Taylor. The men listed here were part of the 36th Division (“Choctaws”). Originally, o­nly eight men were recognized as Choctaw Code Talkers, but as the success of using their native language as a “code” was recognized, others were quickly pressed into service (Allen”).

Toward the end of the war, the Germans had tapped radio and telephone communications. Messengers were sent out from o­ne company to another. These messengers had been dubbed runners. One out of four runners were captured by German troops. The Germans had decoded all transmitted messages up to this point in the war (Bloor).

The situation can better be told in the words of Colonel A. W. Bloor, the commander of the 142nd Infantry Division. The memo he sent to the Headquarters read:

Headquarters 142nd Infantry,
A.E.F.
January 23, 1919, A.P.O. No. 796
From: C.O. 142nd Infantry

To: The Commanding General 36th Division (Attention Capt. Spence)
Subject: Transmitting messages in Choctaw

1. In compliance with memorandum, Headquarters 36th Division, January 21, 1919, to C.O. 142nd Infantry, the following account is submitted

In the first action of the 142nd Infantry at St. Etienne, it was recognized that of all the various methods of liaison the telephone presented the greatest possibilities. The field of rocket signals is restricted to a small number of agreed signals. The runner system is slow and hazardous. T.P.S. is always an uncertain quantity. It may work beautifully and again, it may be entirely worthless. The available means, therefore, for the rapid and full transmission of information are the radio, buzzer and telephone, and of these the telephone was by far the superior, - provided it could be used without let or hindrance, - provided straight to the point information could be given.

It was well understood however, that the German was a past master of “listening in’ Moreover, from St. Etienne to the Aisne we had traveled through a county netted with German wire and cables. We established P.C.’s in dugouts and houses, but recently occupied by him. There was every reason to believe every decipherable message or word going over our wires also went to the enemy. A rumor was out that our Division had given false coordinates of our supply dump, and that in thirty minutes the enemy shells were falling o­n the point. We felt sure the enemy knew too much. It was therefore necessary to code every message of importance and coding and decoding took valuable time.

While comparatively inactive at Vaux-champagne, it was remembered that the regiment possessed a company of Indians. They spoke twenty-six different language or dialects, o­nly four or five of which were ever written. There was hardly o­ne chance in a million that Fritz would be ale to translate these dialects and the plan to have these Indians transmit telephone messages was adopted. The regiment was fortunate in having two Indian officers who spoke several of the dialects. Indians from the Choctaw tribe were chosen and o­ne placed in each P.C.

The first use of the Indians was made in ordering a delicate withdrawal of two companies of the 2nd En. from Chufilly to Chardoney o­n the night of October 26th. This movement was completed without mishap, although it left the Third Battalion, greatly depleted in previous fighting, without support. The Indians were used repeatedly o­n the 27th in preparation for the assault o­n Forest Farm. The enemy’s complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the messages.

After the withdrawal of the regiment to Louppy-le-Petit, a number of Indians were detailed for training in transmitting messages over the telephone. The instruction was carried o­n by the Liaison Officer Lieutenant Black. It had been found that the Indian’s vocabulary of military terms was insufficient. The Indian for “Big Gun” was used to indicate artillery. “Little gun shoot fast”, was substituted for machine gun and the battalions were indicated by o­ne, two and three grains of corn. It was found that the Indian tongues do not permit verbatim translation, but at the end of the short training period at Louppy-le-Petit, the results were very gratifying and it is believed, had the regiment gone back into the line, fine results would have been obtained. We were confident the possibilities of the telephone had been obtained without its hazards.

A.W. Bloor, Colonel
142nd Infantry
Commanding.

Choctaw nation historian Charley Jones has said in his information history classes that Pushmataha, a Choctaw chief who died in 1827, o­nce predicted that the “Choctaw war cry” would be heard in foreign land (Callaway). Pushmataha had no idea how right he was.

One of the Choctaw Code Talkers has frequently been called Oklahoma’s greatest war hero of the first World War. While in the Meuse-argonne campaign, Joseph Oklahombi discovered a group of 250 German soldiers having a meal in a cemetery.

The cemetery had high walls and o­nly o­ne gate, so Oklahombi blocked the gate and killed 79 of the German soldiers. The rest of the Germans surrendered to him (Plunkett).

According to Ben Carterby, Oklahombi o­nly captured two Germans. An officer at the French detention camp saw Oklahombi at a distance with the two prisoners. When he arrived, however, he had o­nly o­ne. “Where’s the other prisoner, Oklahombi?”the officer asked. Oklahombi simply replied, “I kill him.”

Before the officer could even breath or say anything, Oklahombi asked him, “Want me to go back and kill him some more?” (Imon 87-88).

The history book, “World War I: The Thirty Sixth Division” reports that o­n October 6, 1918 the Thirty Sixth was advanced to the front line and within two days were part of a fresh attack o­n the Germans’ strongholds. American soldiers were unprotected, save for heavy artillery dire from the 142nd Infantry, when crossing a wide stretch of land. The artillery fire kept the Germans pinned down, enabling the Americans to kill and/or capture the Germans in their own trenched. During the fight, they noticed something peculiar. An unusual number of German communications lines were uncovered (Callaway).

The ease in locating these telephone lines made Colonel Bloor suspicious enough to believe they had been left behind deliberately. Bloor felt the Germans wanted the Americans to use their lines so they could tap into them and monitor conversations, learning of plans and strategies the Allied forces planned to use. By using the Choctaw members of Company E to transmit messages in their native tongue, the tactic was immediately turned to the American’s favor (“France”).

When the Choctaw tongue was spoken over the field telephones, the Germans stopped attacking the supply dumps and counter attacking the American troops. This is because they had no idea what the Choctaws were saying and couldn’t effectively spy o­n the message transmissions. A captured German officer confessed that his intelligence personnel “were completely confused by the Indian language and gained no benefit whatsoever from their wiretaps” (Franks 30).

The Germans didn’t have much to research regarding Native American languages. Since the Germans had been successfully deciphering American-coded messages, they had some idea of how the Allies might code their secret communications. Most Americans are of an European origin. Choctaws, o­n the other hand, aren’t, so the Germans had no reference to translate the Native language of the Choctaws (Wright).

“Within 24 hours after the Choctaw language was pressed into service, the tide of the battle had turned and in less than 72 hours the Allies were o­n full attack” (Germans”).

While more than o­ne of the Choctaw soldiers has claimed credit for the idea of using the language they grew up speaking to confuse their enemy, and Army officers argue that the initiative was theirs, the late Code Talker Victor Brown realized what is really important about the story. (“Code-Talkers Suggested”; “Choctaw Tongue”; Kahn 550) Brown’s daughter remembers that victor was “quite pleased that they had fooled the Germans” (“Victor”).

The Choctaw Nation today is very proud of the story of the original Code Talkers, and even has a granite monument at the entrance to their capitol grounds that bears the engraved names of all 18 men who used their language to help win World War I. The language is so important to the tribe today that the current administration has classes offered in several states and even offers free Choctaw classes o­n the internet (Pyle 1999).
http://www.choctawnation.com/History/index.cfm?fuseaction=HArticle&HArticleID=36
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marcston



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BerichtGeplaatst: 24 Jan 2007 22:10    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Bedankt voor de bijdrage,

Ik kende de Choctaw wel van een vakantie in Oklahoma, nooit geweten van die historie.

Ik zag op de website dat de screening bij hen gecancelled was, zij hebben ook sneeuw (en een beetje meer dan wij Crying or Very sad )

Erg indrukwekkend.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Sep 2007 15:50    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The first code talkers
By Chris Vaughn
Star-Telegram staff writer



DURANT, Okla. -- Not many Choctaw Indians can speak their ancient tongue anymore.

As was the case in many tribes, the Choctaw elders wanted their children to speak the white man's language, while the U.S. government tried hard to eradicate it on its own.

"Choctaw was all I could talk until I was 9 years old," said Bertram Bobb, 83, one of the tribe's elders. "But I can't speak it fluently anymore. Not too many can."

There was a time -- many years ago now -- when the Choctaw language not only served as a cultural touchstone but also saved lives.

Although few people know it outside the Choctaws' original grounds in southeastern Oklahoma, they were the first "code talkers" in the U.S. military, using the intricacy and obscurity of their language a full generation before the Navajos played the same role in World War II.

A small band of Choctaw Indians volunteered when the U.S. entered World War I and joined the 36th Infantry Division, a joint Texas and Oklahoma outfit that made Camp Bowie into a household name in Fort Worth.

They were never recognized by the government for their role in confounding German eavesdroppers late in the war, and their descendants have been increasingly on the offensive to change that.

"We don't have a lot of Indian heroes," said Tewanna Edwards, the great-niece of Choctaw veteran Otis Leader. "Otis Leader was a hero of our people. He represents all Indians."

Today, they'll finally meet with some success.

Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, commander of the Texas National Guard, will honor the 18 Choctaw code talkers at a ceremony in Austin. The families see the recognition as the fulfillment of a dream, but only partially so. They still believe that the code talkers deserve a Congressional Gold Medal, which the Navajos received for their role in World War II.

With its headquarters in Durant, about 25 miles north of Sherman, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma counts 184,000 members, making it the third-largest tribe in the country. The band of Choctaws in Mississippi is considered a different tribe.

The Choctaws' history is largely one of peace -- they were considered one of the five "civilized" tribes -- and so their warrior history is not nearly as well-known as that of the Apache or the Sioux.

Not many people have heard of Leader, a widower with three children who enlisted at age 33. Gassed three times during the war and treated for months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Leader earned a Silver Star and the French Croix de Guerre for bravery unrelated to his code talking.

Or Joseph Oklahombi, whose name in Choctaw means "man killer." He too earned a Silver Star and Croix de Guerre and once captured 170 Germans by himself. He was such a proud Choctaw that after he returned from the war, he refused to speak English.

"The public thinks they know about the code talkers, but they don't know all of the history," Edwards said. "These men went forward -- they volunteered -- to fight for their country. And you can't put a number on the lives they might have saved through their code talking.

"They weren't even citizens of this country," she said, emphasizing each word.

Thrown into combat

The 36th Infantry Division marched to the Western Front in the summer of 1918, small-town boys from Texas and Oklahoma headed toward their first combat on some of the most inhuman battlefields in history.

In early October, the division -- attached to a French army group -- went into combat in the Meuse-Argonne region against the Germans, who always seemed to know when and where to hit them.

Col. A.W. Bloor, the commander of the 142nd Infantry, would remark later that the Germans were "a past master of listening in" to the regimental officers' telephone communications because they had tapped into the lines.

Using runners was not much more effective: A quarter of all the runners were captured.

October proved to be a very bloody month for the 141st and 142nd Infantry.

Someone -- history is unclear on who exactly it was, whether a white officer or Indian soldier -- remembered that E Company, 142nd Infantry, went by the nickname E Tribe because so many Indians served in it.

The Germans could listen all they wanted on the telephone lines. Unless they grew up in southeastern Oklahoma, they wouldn't have a clue to what was being said.

The Indians were separated and sent to command posts around the area to pass on and translate messages.

Bloor later wrote that the first time he used the code talkers was on Oct. 26 to withdraw some units under cover of darkness. The Germans did not respond. The regiment attacked a few days later and surprised the Germans, sending them into full retreat.

"They contributed with helping to turn the tide of battle in our favor," said retired Col. Pat W. Simpson, director of the Texas National Guard museum in Austin.

The Army, of course, is full of words that do not exist in Choctaw. The Indians and their commanders developed their own code just to make it work.

Machine gun became little gun shoot fast. Artillery became big gun. Casualties became scalps. Battalions became ears of corn.

Just two weeks after the Choctaws became code talkers, World War I came to a close, on the 11th day of the 11th month.

In the next few months, as the Choctaws rejoined their line units and word of what they had done reached higher levels of the Army, they were told to keep it to themselves.

A lesson learned

Less than 25 years after the Choctaws returned to Oklahoma, the War Department dusted off the memos Bloor wrote from France.

In World War II, the Army would call on Comanches from Oklahoma. But Army leaders seemed conflicted about whether they were effective and never used more than 20 of them. The Army Air Forces was dead-set against it.

The Marines were a different story. No service adapted native languages to the degree the Marines did in the Pacific Theater. Close to 400 Navajos acted as code talkers, serving during every island invasion from 1942 to 1945.

They were reported to be faster at sending and translating messages than a machine, and their language was never understood by the Japanese.

After the war, the Navajos returned to society with no more fanfare than the Choctaws.

Their stories remained classified for decades. In the 1980s, near the conclusion of the Cold War, national recognition finally started to arrive.

The French government honored the Comanches for their role in the liberation of France in the 1940s.

The Defense Department honored the Navajos and Comanches and unveiled an exhibit at the Pentagon in the 1990s. Congress authorized legislation to award the Navajos a Congressional Gold Medal. At the White House in 2001, the honor was presented to the few surviving men. Hollywood produced a movie in 2002, Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage.

The Choctaws' story remained a one-sentence footnote, if that, in most of the hoopla.

Not that the Choctaw code talkers knew any of that. They had all died by then.

And with them died many of their stories.

"I knew four of the code talkers personally," said Bobb, the nephew of one, James Edwards. "I regret not having talked to them. I had opportunities. I never did."

Honored at last

The Choctaws' chief, Gregory Pyle, planned to lead a party of Indians to Austin today.

At 2 p.m. on the grounds of Camp Mabry, the 18 code talkers will posthumously receive the Lone Star Medal of Valor, the state's second- highest honor.

Pyle and the code talkers' descendants will then tour the Brig. Gen. John C.L. Scribner Texas Military Forces Museum, which recently completed a long-awaited exhibit on the men and their role in history.

"That will be a large recognition, and it is a huge step in the right direction," Pyle said last week.

Today's ceremony and museum tour are due largely to Ruth Frazier McMillan, the daughter of Tobias William Frazier, a 24-year-old Choctaw who served in E Company.

Frazier came from a plot of land in Rattan, the son and grandson of leading men in the Choctaw Nation. His grandfather had served as a tribal judge. Nearly everything on the land given to them when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 carried their name -- Frazier Chapel, Frazier Creek, Frazier Landing.

McMillan, 75, who now lives in a Seattle suburb, planted the seed for the exhibit with Scribner more than 10 years ago. Scribner died last year.

"Before he became extremely ill, he hired me and left me with a laundry list of things he wanted accomplished," Simpson said. "At the top of the list was the Choctaw code talker exhibit."

Speaking out about the Choctaws has become a bit of a crusade for McMillan.

Her father never talked much about it, although she knew he took great pride in his service.

But she knew very little about his talking on the telephone to other Choctaws while the Germans listened in.

"I didn't ask the right questions," she said.

Now that her father is gone -- he died in 1975 -- she asks other people whether they know anything about the Choctaw code talkers. Rarely they do. So she obliges, gladly, faithfully.

"Our people need to have pride in their race," she said. "I don't care what color you are, you need pride in your background."

Code talkers

The 18 Choctaw code talkers who will posthumously receive the Lone Star Medal of Valor:

Albert Billy, 142nd Infantry

Mitchell Bobb, 142nd Infantry

Victor Brown, 143rd Infantry

Ben Carterby, 142nd Infantry

George E. Davenport, 142nd Infantry

Joseph H. Davenport, 142nd Infantry

James M. Edwards, 142nd Infantry

Tobias William Frazier, 142nd Infantry

Benjamin W. Hampton, 142nd Infantry

Noel Johnson, 142nd Infantry

Solomon Bond Louis, 142nd Infantry

Otis W. Leader, 16th Infantry

Pete Maytubby, 142nd Infantry

Jeff Nelson, 142nd Infantry

Joseph Oklahombi, 143rd Infantry

Robert Taylor, 142nd Infantry

Walter Veach, 142nd Infantry

Calvin Wilson, 142nd Infantry

Museum

The Brig. Gen. John C.L. Scribner Texas Military Forces Museum is the official museum of the Texas National Guard.

Located at Camp Mabry in Austin (Take the 35th Street exit off the Mopac Expressway)

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Admission is free
cvaughn@star-telegram.com
Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/236860.html
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Percy Toplis



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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Mei 2014 22:07    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

World War One: The original code talkers

By Denise Winterman - BBC News Magazine

Inclusief een mondelinge cursus Choctaw!

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26963624
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