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Choctaw Code Talkers

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1918 to 1919
Location: Francemap
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Dedicated 1995

The Choctaw Telephone Squad served in the United States Army during World War I as members of the 141st, 142nd and 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division. Each man had been born in the Choctaw Nation and was a fluent speaker of the language. Deployed in theatre to relay communications using Choctaw in place of regular military code, messages could be transmitted regardless if the radio was overheard or the telephone lines were tapped. The first official combat test took place on 26 Oct 1918 leaving the enemy filled with great surprise. The success was repeated a generation later during World War II and the pseudo-military term "Code Talkers" was coined in that era.


COL Alfred Wainright Bloor (1876-1952) reported in February 1919 (excerpt below, entire text)
While comparatively inactive at Vaux-Champagne, it was remembered that the regiment possessed a company of Indians. They spoke twenty-six different languages or dialects, only four or five of which were ever written. There was hardly one chance in a million that Fritz would be able 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 Bn. [Battalion] from Chufilly to Chardeny 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 [Ferme]. The enemy's complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the messages.
Table of Substitutions
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 Liaison Officer Lieutenant [Templeton] Black. It had been found that the Indian's vocabulary of military terms was insufficient. The Indian [term] 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 that the possibilities of the telephone had been obtained without its hazards.
A.W. Bloor,
Colonel 142d Infantry
Commanding.

Ranging in age from nineteen to thirty-three years of age, all but one of the Code Talkers were from the 36th Infantry Division.


In 1986 the Choctaw War Memorial was erected at the Choctaw Capitol Building in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma. It includes a large section of granite dedicated to the Choctaw Code Talkers. Nineteen names appear on the marker. One from the 1st Division, 16th Regiment. Eighteen members from the 36th Division: 1 from the 141st, 15 from the 142nd, 1 from the 143rd and 1 from the 144th, These men earned immortality as “Code Talkers.”



World War I
Dvision Regiment Name Memorials Notes
1st16th CPL Otis Wilson Leader (abt.1882-1961) 86 & 95
36th 141st PFC Joseph Oklahombi (1895-1960) 86 & 95
36th 142nd PFC Albert Leon Billy (1885-1959) 86 & 95
142nd PVT Mitchell Bobb (abt.1895-abt.1922)* 86 & 95
142nd PFC Ben Anderson Carterby (1893-1953)* 86 & 95
142nd Ben Colbert (abt.1895-) No & 95
142nd PFC George Edwin Davenport Jr. (1887-1950) 86 & 95 half-brother to Joseph
142nd PVT Joseph Harvey Davenport (1892-1923) 86 & 95 half-brother to George
142nd PVT Jonas Durant (abt.1886-) Not Listed
142nd CPL James Morrison Edwards (1898-1962) 86 & 95
142nd CPL Tobias William Frazier Sr (1892-1975) 86 & 95
142nd PVT Benjamin Wilburn Hampton (1892-1963) 86 & 95
142nd PFC Noel Johnson (1892-) 86 & 95 KIA buried overseas
142nd CPL Solomon Bond Louis (1899-1972)* 86 & 95
142nd CPL Peter P. Maytubby (1892-)* 86 & 95
142nd Robert Taylor (1894-1941) 86 & 95
142nd CPT Charles Walter Veach (1884-1966) 86 & 95
142nd PFC Calvin Wilson (1895-1972) 86 & 95
36th 143rd CPL Victor J Brown (abt.1893-1966) 86 & 95
36th 144th Jeff 'Nelson' Wilson (1896-1930) 86 & 95
World War II
PFC Forrester Baker (abt.1920-?)
2LT Schlicht Billy (1920-1994)
PVT Andrew Perry (1920-1944)
SGT Davis Pickens (1922-1944)
*These men were involved with the experiment proving the idea that using the Choctaw language as code had merit. It was Mitchell Bobb in the field who relayed the test message to Ben Carterby at HQ.

Recognition

  • July 28, 1982 By the President of the United States of America (Ronald Reagan) - Proclamation 4954 National Navaho Code Talkers Day, August 14 (each year), honors all tribes who provided Code Talkers.
  • On November 3, 1989, the French government and the State of Oklahoma bestowed the Chevalier de L'Order National du Merite (Knight of the Order of National Merit), posthumously to the World War I Choctaw Code Talkers.
  • Over the years the Oklahoma Indian Code Talkers have been honored at tribal, state, and national celebrations. Efforts to identify and gain federal recognition for all American Indian Code Talkers led to the Code Talkers Recognition Act, signed into law in November 2008 by Pres. George W. Bush.
  • Choctaw Code Talkers Bridge Naming Program Act 2020 Oklahoma Statutes Title 69. Roads Bridges and Ferries §69-1600.2. Twenty-three Oklahoma bridges renamed to honor Choctaw WWI and WWII heroes.

Resources

Online:

Print:

  • Meadows, William C. First Code Talkers: Native American Communicators in World War I. University of Oklahoma Press, 2021.

Video:





Collaboration


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