Native American Heritage Month: Comanche Code Talkers

This month we celebrate Native American Heritage Month by looking at code talkers of World War II, specifically the men of the Comanche Tribe.  In December 1940, seventeen Comanche were recruited by the US Army to become code talkers.  These men were assigned to the 4th Signal Company of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Here they received phone, radio, Morse code, and semaphore training. 


In August 1941 these seventeen men were placed under Lt. Hugh F. Foster to develop an unbreakable Comanche-language code.  Foster provided the men with 250 specialized military terms for which they needed to develop coded equivalents.  Combined with standard Comanche, coded terms were developed.  Here are some examples of those coded terms:
Tutsahkuna’ tawo’i’     meaning “sewing machine gun” for “machine gun,”
Wakaree’e                  meaning “turtle” for “tanks,”
Po’sa taiboo’               meaning “Crazy White Man” for “Hitler.”
Comanche Code Talker completed their training on 30 October 1941, and shortly thereafter went to Louisiana to conduct field exercises.  It took a military machine up to four hours to transmit and decode a message; however, a Comanche Code Talker could decode the same message in under three minutes. 

Comanche Code Talkers, Ft. Benning, Georgia

Fourteen of the men who had trained were sent to the European Theater with the 4th Infantry Division.  On 6 June 1944, thirteen Comanche Code Talkers hit the Utah Beach with Allied Troops.  When they landed, they were five miles off their designated target.  The first message sent from the beach was sent in Comanche from PFC Larry Saupitty and translated to “We made a good landing.  We landed in the wrong place.”
Comanche Code Talkers, Ft. Benning (National Archives)
Maintaining wire telephone lines and sending secure messages via field phone and radio, the Comanche Code Talkers served in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany.  They served in important battles such as at Cherbourg, St. Lo, Paris, the Siegfried Line, the Huertgen Forest, and Bastogne.  Several men were wounded during the course of the war, but all made it home.  Their code, like that of the Navajos in the Pacific, was never broken. 
On November 3, 1989, the French government and the State of Oklahoma bestowed the Chevalier de L’Order National de Merite (Knight of the Order of National Merit), to three then-surviving members of the Comanche Code Talkers (Cpl. Charles Chibitty, Cpl. Forrest Kassanavoid, and Pfc. Roderick Red Elk) at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  To learn more, visit the website for the Comanche National Museum.

Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

·         Cpl. Charles Chibitty
·         T/4 Haddon Codynah
·         T/5 Robert Holder
·         Cpl. Forrest Kassanavoid
·         T/5 Wellington Mihecoby
·         Pvt. Albert (Edward) Nahquaddy, Jr.
·         Pvt. Perry Noyabad
·         T/5 Clifford Otitivo
·         T/5 Simmons Parker
·         Pvt. Melvin Permansu
·         Pvt. Elgin Red Elk
·         Pfc. Roderick Red Elk
·         Pfc. Larry Saupitty
·         Anthony Tabbytite
·         T/4 Morris Tabbyetchy
·         Pfc. Ralph Wahnee
·         T/5 Willis Yackeschi

Until next time, 
Comanche National Museum. 
Oklahoma’s Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture 
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