How this World War I Choctaw Code Talker captured 171 Germans
By Matt Fratus
via the Coffee or Die web site
German intelligence intercepted Allied military correspondence throughout October 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne campaign. In response to the Allies’ need to deliver coded messages to various front-line positions, the US Army enlisted the help of Choctaw Nation soldiers within the 141st, 142nd, and 143rd Infantry Regiments.
These ingenious men were a part of the original group of “Code Talkers,” or Native American interpreters, from World War I who relayed sensitive military communications to officers in the field. These messages were translated from their native languages into English.
Pvt. Joseph Oklahombi of the 141st Infantry Regiment went beyond his duties as a translator, however, when he and 23 other members of his unit participated in a French-led diversionary attack at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge near Saint-Etienne-a-Arnes in France on Oct. 8, 1918.
Oklahombi braved a violent artillery barrage and scampered some 210 yards through barbed wire entanglements across no man’s land to ambush a series of German machine-gun nests. Leading his force from the front, he stormed the German stronghold and captured more than 50 machine guns, several trench mortars, and 171 prisoners. According to some accounts, Oklahombi and his men also seized an artillery site and killed nearly 80 Germans in their assault.
Under relentless shelling (including the use of chemical gas), Oklahombi held the line for the next four days. Without resupply of food, water, or ammunition, Oklahombi crossed no man’s land many times to acquire intelligence on enemy forces and assist his wounded comrades.
At that time, no Native American service members from World War I had received the Medal of Honor. The US didn’t consider Native Americans as US citizens until 1924, some eight years after Oklahombi’s battlefield heroics. Still, the French government awarded Oklahombi the Croix de Guerre, one of the country’s highest medals for gallantry. For its part, the US military issued Oklahombi the Silver Star medal, the third-highest achievement for valor.
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