“History can be ironic. 

“Native American children in the early to mid-20th century were taken from their homes and taught in boarding schools which tried to erase all vestiges of their culture and language, and then a few years later it was their language that helped America win World War II. 

Irony, right?

This past month of November marked Native American Heritage Month, which is celebrated by many throughout the country. As of the 2020 Census, there are roughly 2.6 million Native Americans in the U.S.

The month recognizes what Native Americans have left through culture, language and storytelling, but also what was taken from them.

Native Americans historically joined the armored forces two times more than the American population. 

(Courtesy of National WW2 Museum)

Because the government already created boarding schools and had almost as strict discipline as the military, the transition from school to the armed forces came easy to many Natives Americans, especially Comanches at the time. 

The code talkers were shocked at how much they knew and some of their basic training was cut short because of it. 

“Code Talkers” was a title given to Native Americans who used their native languages to secretly communicate on battlefields. They were used through storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and through World War II.

The Comanche developed their own lingo of over 250 code words to “describe military and geographical terms for which there was no native word. 

Bombers were “pregnant birds” and bombs were “baby birds.” Tanks were “turtles,” and Adolph Hitler was “crazy white man.”

There were 17 individuals who made up the Comanche Code Talkers, but they were not the first. 

During World War I, the Choctaw Telephone Squad was used first in the Army, then the US Marines and Navy and then 29 Navajo code talkers completed training in the US Marines in 1942. 

While coming up with their new words, they were placed in secluded rooms until they completed the task. Most code talkers were assigned in pairs in military units. 

(Courtesy of US Army)

This was especially dangerous because one person from the pair would carry a portable radio while the second person would translate and relay messages in English. 

In the Pacific, Japanese soldiers would target medics and radiomen, forcing the code talkers to continuously move locations. 

The work of many code talkers aided victory during WWII. 

5th Marine Division signal Officer Major Howard stated:

“Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.” 

While the operation was kept secret for many years and declassified by the WW2 code talker program in 1968, recognition was not given until decades later. 

While some was given during the 1970s and 80s, in 2001, Congressional Gold Medals were given to Navajo and other code talkers. 

If it were not the knowledge, tactics and aid of Native Americans through U.S. battle, some history could have been written differently today.

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