Thursday, November 11, 2010

on this day... in 1918: Choctaw Code Talkers

During recent decades, Navajo code talkers during World War II have been subject of many films, documentaries, books... But very few know, that in the closing days of World War I, a group of Choctaw indians (from Oklahoma) were the very first to use their native language as military code for the U.S. army.

German forces proved to be masterful breakers of American military code, and were believed by U.S. army officers to be intercepting and decoding every code in use. Colonel A.W. Bloor, noticed a number of American Indians serving with him in the 142nd Infantry in France. With the active cooperation of his Choctaw soldiers, he tested and deployed an innovative experiment, using the Choctaw language in place of regular military code.

Full use of the Choctaw language as military code involved speaking the language by telephone. Choctaws were placed in each company of soldiers to send or transmit it. Runners were also employed to extend the system as necessary. The ennemy could no longer decypher the messages, and it was a big help for the American Expeditionary Force who won several key battles in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France, during the last big German offensive of the war. The movement was successful and the tide of the battle had turned. In less than 72 hours the Germans were retreating and the Allies were on full attack.

More than 70 years passed before the contributions of the Choctaw Code talkers were fully recognized. On November 3, 1989, in recognition of the important role the Choctaw Code Talkers played during World War I, the French government presented the Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Mérite (the Knight of the National Order of Merit) to the Choctaws Code Talkers

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