The Men With the Unbreakable Code

The Code Talkers of World War II

My wartime experiences developing a code that utilized the Navajo language taught how important our Navajo culture is to our country. For me that is the central lesson: that diverse cultures can make a country richer and stronger. – Chester Nez, Navajo Code Talker

Carl Gorman- Navajo

https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter4.html

 Gorman joined the United States Marine Corps in 1942 when he learned they were recruiting Navajos. He went through all the difficult training and was one of the original 29 Navajos who were given the secret mission of developing the Navajo code. Carl answered one of his officers who had asked why Navajos were able to memorize the complex code so quickly: “For us, everything is memory, it’s part of our heritage. We have no written language. Our songs, our prayers, our stories, they’re all handed down from grandfather to father to children—and we listen, we hear, we learn to remember everything. It’s part of our training.” (Power of a Navajo: Carl Gorman, the Man and His Life, by Henry and Georgia Greenberg,1996) Carl served in four important Pacific battles: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Tinian, and Saipan. In 1942, Carl was stricken by Malaria, a severe tropical disease, yet he continued to fight. In 1944, Carl was evacuated from Saipan suffering both from the effects of Malaria and shell shock. Shell shock is the psychological effects of being in extremely stressful and dangerous situations, such as combat. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a mosquito. Malaria was a common disease in the Pacific islands where much of the war against Japan was fought. He had to be hospitalized and took many months to recover. [1]

Charles Chibitty- Comanche

“Well, I was afraid and if I didn’t talk to the Creator, something was wrong. Because when you’re going to go in battle, that’s the first thing you’re going to do, you’re going to talk to the Creator.—Charles Chibitty, Comanche Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004

Charles Chibitty was one of 17 Comanche men who served as Code Talkers in World War II. In 1941, when he learned that Comanches were being recruited to speak their language, he volunteered for the United States Army. Mr. Chibitty helped develop the code that the Comanches used and participated in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, including the D-Day landing in Normandy. He attained the rank of Corporal.

https://www.army.mil/article/90294/Charles_Chibitty__Comanche_Code_Talker/

Chester Nez- Navajo

Chester Nez was in 10th grade at the time that the military began recruiting Navajo code talkers. He became one of the first 29 men chosen to join the 382 Platoon- the all Native American Unit of the Marines. At the end of the war, Nez reenlisted and served in Korea. He retired in 1974 after 25 years of service. Until 1968, Nez was unable to tell anyone, including his family, about his contributions during WWII. In 2014, he came the last of the original 29 code talkers to pass away, at the age of 93.  Nez said of his time in the war, “When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn’t just curl up in a shelter,” Nez wrote in his book. “We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move.”[1]  He also stated that “Our Navajo code was one of the most important military secrets of World War II. The fact that the Marines did not tell us Navajo men how to develop that code indicated their trust in us and in our abilities. The feeling that I could make it in both the white world and the Navajo world began there, and it has stayed with me all of my life. For that I am grateful.”[2]

Joe Housteen Kellwood- Navjao

Kellwood was born in Arizona in 1921 and would later be sent to a school on an Apache reservation run by the US military. He would enlist in the Marine Corps after reading about the efforts in the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was unaware of the top-secret code talkers’ programs when he enlisted. During his training he learned Morse code, radio and of course the Navajo codes.  After the war, Kellwood would settle in Sunnyslope, Arizona. He was extremely close with his brother Roy who also served – in the US Army Air Force. Joe passed away only three days after his brother Roy in 2016. Roy’s son said of his father and uncle “They were Navajo warriors – that’s what everyone calls them. They defended the country, not just for the US, but for the Navajo nation and the Navajo people.” [1]

Frank Sanache- Meskwaki

The eight Meskwaki code talkers – Edward Benson, Dewey Roberts, Frank Sanache, Willard Sanache, Melvin Twin, Judy Wayne Wabaunasee, Mike Wayne Wabaunasee and Dewey Youngbear

Frank Sanache was one of eight Meskwakis trained to use code in World War II. The Meskwaki tribe is based in Tama County and was among the 18 tribes that contributed code talkers in the war. Sanache unfrotantly had little opportunity to use his language skills after being shipped to North Africa were there were few Meskwaki code talkers for him to work with. He was captured after just five months at war and would spend 28 months as a prisoner of war. Describing his time as a POW, Sanache said A cup of hot water in the morning for coffee. A little bowl of soup at noon, then two potatoes at night. That’s what you live on. That’s what I lived on for three years.—Frank Sanache, Meskwaki Code Talker (discussing the meals provided for him as a prisoner of war), National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004[1] In 2013, the eight Meskwaki Code talkers were posthumously awarded the  Congressional Gold Medal.

This is only a small list of those that served.

[1] https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter4.html

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/us/navajo-code-talker-joe-hosteen-kellwood-obit/

[1] http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/04/decoding-history-a-world-war-ii-navajo-code-talker-in-his-own-words/

[2] http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/04/decoding-history-a-world-war-ii-navajo-code-talker-in-his-own-words/

 

[1] https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter4.html

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