Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, July 22, 2005

BonnieBlueFlag -- Wind Talkers

By BonnieBlueFlag

I noticed that a Mr. Charles Chibitty passed away this past week, and
the local Oklahoma news headline mentioned that he had been the last
of the World War II Code Talkers.

Upon further reading, I realized that he was the last of the "Comanche"
Code Talkers.

Now I have known about the code talkers for as long as I can remember.
Even as a child, I tended to pick up odd bits of history concerning
American Indians, because I was proud of the small amount of Cherokee
history that I called my own.

What I had not known, was that the Navajo were not the only code
talkers, just the most numerous and the most famous. And that World War
II was not the first time that the American Indians, had provided such
an important service to the United States Armed Forces in winning a

First of all, there were two types of Native American language codes:

1)A special coded vocabulary using the vocabulary of the Native American
2)A non-coded use of one of the everyday Native American
In World War I, the following Tribes participated as code talkers,
one of the above types of codes.
Cheyenne 2
Choctaw 1
Comanche 2
Cherokee 2
Osage 2
Sioux (Yankton) 2
The Tribes who contributed code talkers in World War II.
Comanche 1
Navajo 1
Chippewa 2
Choctaw 2
Creek 2
Hopi 2
Kiowa 2
Menominee 2
Muscogee-Seminole 2
Oneida 2
Pawnee 2
Sac and Fox 2
Sioux (Lakota and Dakota) 2

The Choctaws were recognized as the first to use their language as a
code in World War I. The US Army used at least 14 Choctaws as radio
operators during that war.

During the second World War, the Navajo tribe offered the largest
number of code talker candidates for the US Marines. It was also known that no
Japanese or German nationals had studied on their reservation, so there
was an even greater likelihood, that neither of those groups of people
had a knowledge of the Navajo language.

The first Navajo code talkers landed with the Marines on Guadalcanal in
August of 1942.

During World War II, 420 Navajo code talkers served with the Marines,
50 Choctaw and about 17 Comanche code talkers served with the Army in the
European invasion. Other tribes were represented by smaller numbers of
code talkers, but all used their own languages.

It has only been in the last few years, that the United States
government has begun to officially recognize the contribution of these
brave Americans, to the Allied Armies' success in winning the second
World War. For many years it was kept secret, in the event that they
might be called upon to serve once more. Modern technological advances
have made that unlikely, so at long last their story has been told.

Charles Chibitty/By Rudi Williams/American Forces Press Service
Mr. Chibitty was born near Medicine Park, Oklahoma on November 20,

He attended Haskell Indian School at Lawrence, Kansas, where he was
forbidden to speak his native language. He enlisted in the US Army in
January of 1942.

Years later he would say that they tried to make us quit talking Indian
in school, now they want us to talk Indian.
Corporal Chibitty earned the W.W. II Victory Medal, the European
Theater of Operations (5th Bronze Star) Victory Medal, the Europe African

East Campaign Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
In 1989, the French government honored the Comanche code talkers, by
presenting them with the Chevalier of the National Order of Merit.

In 1992, former Secretary of Defense, now Vice-president Dick Cheney,
presented Mr. Chibitty a certificate of appreciation for his service to
the country.

In 2001, the US Congress passed legislation authorizing the
presentation of gold medals to Native Americans who served as code talkers during
foreign wars.

In a 1998 story for "The Oklahoman," Mr. Chibitty recalled being at
Normandy on D-Day, and said someone once asked him what he was afraid
of most and if he feared dying.

"No. That was something we had already accepted," he said.

"But we landed in deeper water than anticipated. A lot of boys drowned.
That's what I was afraid of."

"I wonder what the hell Hitler thought when he heard those strange
voices," he once told a gathering.

In November of 2002 Mr. Chibitty met with Pentagon officials in
Washington, and when asked about code talking, he gave them a few
examples in the Comanche language, and then translated the messages for

"A turtle is coming down the hedgerow. Get that stovepipe and shoot

"A turtle was a tank and a stovepipe was a bazooka," he explained. "We
couldn't say tank or bazooka in Comanche, so we had to substitute
something else. A turtle has a hard shell, so it was a tank."
Since there was no Comanche word for machine gun it became "sewing
machine," Chibitty noted, "because of the noise the sewing machine made
when my mother was sewing."

"Hitler," he said, was "posah-tai-vo," or "crazy white man."
After his visit in Washington that year, and before returning home to
Tulsa, Okla., Mr. Chibitty spent some time with researchers at the US
Army Center for Military History for oral history sessions. The Army
wanted to preserve the history of the Comanche code talkers and
Chibitty was the last one to tell the story from first-hand experience.

When we repeatedly talk about the men who have gone before us, the men
who have fought and died for this country's freedom, we are talking
about men like Charles Chibitty. What did he owe the US Army? The same
army that had driven his people from the freedom of the Great Plains to
life on a reservation?

And yet he enlisted in that same army for the good of all Americans. He
landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, somewhere near my own father, and fought
to defeat "Posah-tai-vo," for all of us.

Charles Chibitty, we will be forever grateful, and it is our fondest
wish that may you be welcomed home, by the great Comanche war chief,
Quanah Parker himself.

Written by: BonnieBlueFlag


At 3:46 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

What a beautiful article, Bonnie. I found it fascinating. And it touched me so much that he was forbidden to speak his own language. Ironically, of course, had he not learned his language and had he heeded the prohibition our country would not have had the opportunity to make use of his great skill and bravery. It's an inspiring story. In addition, it's a fascinating field for linguists to study the hundreds of Native American languages spoken in Ameria -- and what's amazing is that most of them are completely unrelated to each other. There would be a lot unemployed linguists if these marvelous languages did not survive. Thanks again for some great research, as usual!!

At 4:21 PM, Blogger BonnieBlueFlag said...

Thanks Aussiegirl.

Mr. Chibitty was asked if the Comanche language is written, and he said, "There is a book, but you've got to be awfully damn smart to read it. It's not like alphabets, you have to learn the phonetics to pronounce the words."

I only wish that the American Indians would recognize, that when we use team names like the Atlanta "Braves," or the Kansas City "Chiefs," it is a compliment, because we admire them in so many ways.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger TJ Willms said...

This really is an outstanding post! Thank you very much!
I find it sad that in so many cases the Native American groups wish to hold themselves separate from America at large. All of the American Indian nations have contributed greatly to make this nation what it has become from its founding to the present day. Their people even treated as horribly as they were able to rise above it to serve as indispensable partners in defending the nation that they called home. Very few modern Americans would find the courage to do the same. Theirs is a culture that needs to be preserved so that it’s long history of admirable qualities can teach us all what it truly means to be Americans.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger marching_gurl89 said...

This was intersting. I am a total history geek and know that the movie wind talkers wrongly portrayed them.

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous paul said...

Not to change the subject, but the Carnival of Revolutions is up, and you're in it.

Come on by.



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