Recognition of Code Talking is revived
November 23, 2008
Reviving the subject of Native American Code Talkers and the role they played in World Wars I and II in a lecture recently was Dr. William C. Meadows, a professor of anthropology at Missouri State University. Meadows, who had been researching the subject since 1993, had written a book entitled, The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II that became an inspiration leading to the passage of H.R. 4544, the Code Talkers Recognition Act.

Referring to the Act that was signed by President Bush late in 2007, Meadows said that the acknowledgment was "long overdue."And those attending the lecture in honor of November as Native American Heritage Month agreed that until now they had not heard about the bill having been passed.

“I think it’s more satisfying to [us]…getting recognition,” said MSU student Bryan Charlie, a Native American. He was referring to the plan of giving one medal to each Native American family whose ancestors participated in Code Talking.

Choctaws, who were fluent in both their own language and English, were the first Native Americans to participate, Meadows explained. Code Talking started in the beginning of World War I, around the year 1917. American troops began using Native American translators to send and receive encoded phone messages among companies without fear of German interception. Over 200 million coded terms were used.

There were few articles written about Code Talking during the last two months of World War I, Meadows said. Afterward the subject was forgotten until around 1989 when interest was revived in the US. France was the only nation consistently to have recognized these Native Americans, Meadows commented.

In World War II, Code Talking became more popular. Single, Native American men were being recruited secretly by the government. Code Talking was confidential until 1968. According to Meadows, Navajos were instructed not to talk about Code Talking at all. The Marines formed many Code Talking groups but would deny doing so.

“It seemed silly, the way the Americans let the media hide this story,” said lecture attendee John Wagmann.

Regarding how choice of the subject came about, Meadows, after having written a dissertation on military service in World War II, said he had been asked by his professor to write an article on Code Talkers.

“That’s the story of my life. I just happen to be at the right place at the right time,” Meadows said. “I was just looking for an interesting story.”

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