Code Talkers of WWII – The Navajo and More

Code Talkers of WWII – The Navajo and More

The Navajo code talkers have been made famous in various books and movies, and rightly so. Being a code talker during the Second World War was a dangerous and, for the longest time, a thankless job. It was only in 2001 that the Navajo were finally recognized for their contribution as code talkers. All other tribes who contributed were only recognized in 2008. Nevertheless, code talkers were instrumental to the war effort.

More tribes than just the Navajo participated in the code talker project. According to the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, signed by President George Bush, there were actually representatives of 22 tribal nations speaking their native languages to help send and receive coded messages.



First Use


World War One saw the first use of Native American language to send and receive encoded messages. The Choctaw and Cherokee were instrumental in Europe to help turn the tide of war.

The first reported use of Native American Code Talkers were Choctaw speakers on October 17, 1918. The next reported use of Native Americans speaking code for a military effort was the Comanche in World War 2. In the beginning, the Army recruited 50 Native American speakers for special language assignments. The Marines, however, recruited several hundred Navajo for duty in the Pacific arena.  The code was never broken, despite the Japanese capturing a Navajo soldier and torturing him to try and break the code.



Attempts to break the code



German dictator Adolf Hitler was quite aware of the Choctaw efforts during the First World War, so when Germany started its policy of aggression, he attempted to send spies to Native American reservations to learn the languages. However, most languages are so complex and difficult that they are impossible to pass off as a person’s native tongue to a native speaker. Hitler’s spies were unsuccessful. Even if they had been successful in learning the language, though, they still would most likely have been unable to break the code.



Many tribes provided Code Talkers.



Many tribes participated in code talking. The CTRA specifically recognized and honored Assiniboine, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chippewa/Oneida, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Crow, Hopi, Kiowa, Menominee, Meskwaki, Mississauga, Muscogee, Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, Seminole, and last but certainly not least, various Sioux tribes.

The Lakota were represented by, among others, Clarence Wolf Guts (Oglala). He attempted to reenlist when the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001. Garfield T. Brown (Oglala), Phillip “Stoney” La Blanc (Cheyenne River Oyate), Eddie Eagle Boy (Cheyenne River), Charles Whitepipe (Rosebud), Iver Crow Eagle Sr. (Rosebud, Sicangu Oyate), and Simon Brokenly (Rosebud) also represented the Lakota.

The Dakota Sioux boasted Edmund St. John (Crow Creek), Walter C. John (Santee), Guy Rondell (Sisseton/ Wahpeton), and John Bear King (Standing Rock, Hunkpapa).

The military lists some warriors as “Sioux Code Talkers,” but neglects to name which specific tribe these men hail from. Baptiste Pumpkinseed is buried at Pine Ridge Reservation, so it is speculated he is Oglala. Jeffrey Dull Knife, Anthony Omaha Boy, and John C. Smith round out our list of Sioux Code Talkers.

Native Americans were abused, neglected, and actively exterminated by the United States throughout the history of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. The abuses have not ended to this day; nevertheless, Native men and women can be counted on to fight and die in the US military. Every one of them deserves honor and recognition for their sacrifice.

By Susan Curry for Native Daily Network

Watch as the Comanche Cold Talkers arrive to support their Standing Rock relatives fight the Dakota Access Pipeline