The First Code Talkers
Native American Communicators in World War I
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The first full account of these forgotten soldiers in our nation’s military history, The First Code Talkers covers all known Native American code talkers of World War I—members of the Choctaw, Oklahoma Cherokee, Comanche, Osage, and Sioux nations, as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee and Ho-Chunk, whose veterans have yet to receive congressional recognition. William C. Meadows, the foremost expert on the subject, describes how Native languages, which were essentially unknown outside tribal contexts and thus could be as effective as formal encrypted codes, came to be used for wartime communication. While more than thirty tribal groups were eventually involved in World Wars I and II, this volume focuses on Native Americans in the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War.
Drawing on nearly thirty years of research—in U.S. military and Native American archives, surviving accounts from code talkers and their commanding officers, family records, newspaper accounts, and fieldwork in descendant communities—the author explores the origins, use, and legacy of the code talkers. In the process, he highlights such noted decorated veterans as Otis Leader, Joseph Oklahombi, and Calvin Atchavit and scrutinizes numerous misconceptions and popular myths about code talking and the secrecy surrounding the practice.
With appendixes that include a timeline of pertinent events, biographies of known code talkers, and related World War I data, this book is the first comprehensive work ever published on Native American code talkers in the Great War and their critical place in American military history.
“This is a well-researched history of a little known fact of World War I; that indigenous language speakers used that skill to communicate within and among U.S. Army units fighting in Europe…for those who are interested in the story of how indigenous people served in the United States Military and their very notable contributions, it is a must read.”—Oneota Reading Journal