Unsung Code-Talkers: the Choctaw
January 1, 2018 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Few of us know about the Choctaw code-talkers and their service in the ETO. During an engagement against the Germans, who seemed to have an uncanny skill at reading the Allied intentions, an officer heard two Choctaw talking. Wait, he said, what if we could send messages in that language and foil the Germans?! And that's what happened. There were a number of Choctaw serving in the Army and they became relay messengers and runners, and invented new terms for military specifics. In the second link, the personal stories of these Choctaw are told: Choctaw Nation report
posted by MovableBookLady (16 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The Americans attacked so aggressively against the well-entrenched German 200th and 213th Divisions that the line surged forward. Two hours later the French line on either side was so far behind that the Marines were vulnerable to fire from the sides and rear as well as directly ahead. In fact, General Lejeune was so disgusted by the failure of the French to keep pace and his perception that they were lagging on purpose that he threatened to resign his commission rather than fight again with French liaison officers by his side.

I HATE American sentiments like this about the world wars. Maybe the French has been, ya know, fighting this war for years before the Americans showed up. Maybe they had experience with surging ahead too far only to get caught out of position. Maybe, just maybe, they were tired of running head first into German machine gun fire just because some general said so.

The French had 10x more casualties in WWI than the Americans, but some big tough Marine named Lejeune pitches a fit when they don't charge fast enough at German lines in 19 friggin' 18 after the French had been dying in those trenches for almost 4 years and suddenly they're the cowardly laggards.

I know this is supposed to be about Choctaw code talkers, but before we can even get to that part of the article we have to wade through an entire section titled "US General Preferred Resignation to Allying with the French Army." Jingoistic bullshit just permeates American military writing and it is odious.
posted by thecjm at 10:31 AM on January 1 [39 favorites]

As a percentage of population, France had more casualties than the US in WWII as well.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:08 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]

See also Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, which I am pretty sure I learned about here but can't find the post.

The Code Talker languages include Cherokee, Navajo, Comanche and others (also Basque, I was surprised to learn).
posted by bunderful at 12:31 PM on January 1

Comanche were used in Europe, and over 600 Navajo served in the Pacific where their coded communication was so effective that the Navajo language was determined to be vital to U.S. national security and declared secret. Native speakers were restricted from teaching their own language or even writing it down. Even schoolbooks for children were banned until 1968, when such measures were finally abandoned.

Boy we sure can ruin a good thing. The US government manages to take any even remotely positive thing and turn it into a new way to oppress.
posted by bleep at 12:31 PM on January 1 [21 favorites]

The Code Talker languages include Cherokee, Navajo, Comanche and others (also Basque, I was surprised to learn).

And apparently, the British Army used to (and possibly still) assign Welsh-speaking troops to work as radio operators, in the hope that Johnny Foreigner doesn't have anyone who speaks Welsh.
posted by acb at 12:41 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

I'm wondering whether, after the code-talker secret came out, there was an arms race among military powers to develop faculties expert in their potential enemies' regional/minority languages, and capable of training up troops in them should need be. For example, US universities having a disproportionate number of faculty specialising in Turkic/Ugric/Sino-Tibetan languages (of the sorts spoken in enclaves in Russia and China), all funded from the military budget, and the Native American languages departments in Moscow and Beijing being also much larger than anybody might expect.
posted by acb at 12:48 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

OP: Hey, here’s an interesting link about indigenous Americans!

MeFi: (various white people across the globe) Fart purple dinosaur umbrella.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 12:56 PM on January 1 [14 favorites]

[Couple things removed, I know there's larger context mentioned in the article but this thread should not just turn into a generic "the US military talk a big game" griping.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

Next big war they'll use Klingon speakers.
posted by sammyo at 1:04 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

There was a big screen film about the Choctaw: Windtalkers.
posted by sammyo at 1:06 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

Wasn't there an X-Files episode loosely based around this concept as well?
posted by deadaluspark at 1:12 PM on January 1

There was a Navaho code-talker character in several X-Files mytharc episodes, but not Choctaw I don't think.
posted by tavella at 1:49 PM on January 1

I don't put it past anyone in Christopher Guest's circles to have rarefied knowledge and cite John Michael Higgins' line as Corey Taft in For Your Consideration(2006) that references his Chocktaw heritage as evidence. Balaban's their understated informant to all things of unspeakable privilege. And I love them all for it.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 2:50 PM on January 1

There was a big screen film about the Choctaw: Windtalkers.

That was about Navajo codetalkers, not Choctaw.

The Navajo codetalkers have finally gotten some well-deserved attention over the last decade or two, but I've literally never heard of Choctaw, Cherokee, or Comanche codetalkers before now, and I had no idea the U.S. military employed soldiers from other American Indian tribes for that. It's pretty interesting, and I'm glad they're getting attention now. I hope they don't all get conflated together.

The use of the Cherokee language as a cipher is interesting as they have their own independently-developed writing system, which would facilitate the transmission of written messages as well.
posted by biogeo at 3:21 PM on January 1 [14 favorites]

The Navajo code talkers were mentioned in the blue a couple of times, many years ago, and the Comanches once as well, but like biogeo I’d never heard about the contributions of the Choctaw.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:46 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

Fwiw, there was a Code Talkers Act of 2008 which resulted in recognizing 33 tribes who contributed code talkers in WWI and WWII (in addition to the Navajo, who were recognized earlier). Here's a lovely profile of Gilbert Horn Sr., an Assiniboine code talker who passed away in 2016.

The 2008 Act mentions the Choctaw, Comanche, and Navajo by name in the findings, and lists 13 tribes to investigate, but it sounds like it took several years to research/identify/confirm some of the others.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 9:30 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]

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