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Comanche Code Talkers

For all the tragic deeds it carried out in the service of a wicked regime, the German military of World War II remains one of the great fighting forces in history. The United States and its Allies had to throw every resource they had at this intrepid foe to vanquish it. One of their most ingenious was the Comanche Code Talkers.

In a similar manner to the Oklahoma Choctaws of World War I (Chapter 1), these Lawton-area Natives created a 250-word military code in their native language. Various of their tribal words represented terms germane to European Theater warfare. With the leadership of white Lt. Hugh Foster, they accomplished this at least a year and a half prior to the creation of the famous Navajo Code Talker training program.

Their unique lexicon included tutsahkuna' tawo'i', the Comanche word meaning sewing machine, for machine guns; wakaree'e the word meaning turtle, for tanks; and Po'sa taiboo' the word meaning Crazy White Man, for Hitler.

Since the Comanche language was unwritten, the Nazi regime had no way to translate it even if they tapped into a field telephone communication or intercepted a radio message. Not even other Comanches knew the system that the Code Talkers crafted.

Code Talker Frank Kassanavoid recalled the first battlefield message sent in Comanche code. It happened at the Normandy Beach “D-Day” invasion, in which all seventeen Comanche Code Talkers participated. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of the famous president, was field commander for the Allied forces that hit Utah Beach. Code Talker Larry Saupitty was his personal driver-radio operator-orderly. Roosevelt realized that his troops had been landed more than a mile from their target point. They would not have their massive supporting fire. If the Germans realized this, they might have driven them back into the sea.

“We made a good landing,” Saupitty radioed to the command ship for Roosevelt. “We landed at the wrong place.” The coded messages helped right the situation and prevented the defenders from realizing the precarious nature of the American position in that sector.

“I was scared many times later, but I was never scared half as much as while I was on that beach,” Code Talker Haddon Codynah remembered.

Code Talker Roderick Red Elk heroically scaled a shell and machine gun-blasted tree on the beach as the battle raged all around him, in order to string wire for crucial radio communication lines.

Front Lines Across Europe

As chronicled by historian William C. Meadows, the Comanches also engaged in combat at Cherbourg, St. Lo, Paris, the Siegfried Line, the Huertgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge, including at Bastogne. They constantly manned frontline radios and transmitted key messages in the code. This greatly enhanced Allied communication, mobility, and fighting efficiency. Even though the Germans knew of the code, they never broke it.

Toward the end of the American drive across Europe in Spring 1945, the Comanches encountered Nazi death and concentration camps for Jews and other “unacceptables” near Munich. The Germans had recently abandoned them. “Human hog pens…set up for slave labor,” Roderick Red Elk described them.

“We gave (the survivors) all the K-rations, corned beef hash…cigarettes…and everything we had,” Code Talker Charles Chibitty recalled.

Throughout the drive from Normandy to Germany, the Code Talkers continued to lay and check wire in forward positions between their Fourth Division headquarters and the fighting regiments. They faced snipers, small arms fire, mortars, and artillery shelling. Men died all around them. Several of the Comanches suffered wounds, some serious, including Saupitty, Kassanavoid, Robert Holder, Perry Noyabad, and Willie Yackeschi.

Oklahoma Indians from numerous other tribes, including Cherokee, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Creek, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, and Seminole served as Type 2 Code Talkers during World War II. They performed similar dangerous communication duties in their Native language but had no special code words as did the Type 1 Comanche Code Talkers. Seven of the nine Pawnee code talkers were wounded and one, Sgt. Gary Gover of Pawnee was killed.

Choctaw Schlict Billy’s audacious capture of a German pillbox began the Allied breaking of Germany’s vaunted Siegfried Line late in the war. Schlicht, a devout Baptist deacon from Scipio, was wounded four times, troubled by those near-mortal injuries the rest of his life, and won the Silver Star. So did Noyabad, who also won a Bronze Star. Chibitty, Red Elk, Kassanavoid, and Holder also won Bronze Stars.


Additional information on this topic has also been covered on our Oklahoma Gold! podcast. Below is the audio presentation, or view the whole presentation with additional images and information by clicking here.

The Oklahomans Vol 2

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Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

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