Lloyd Schuyler, Rupert Adams, Hudson Doxtator, Rimton Doxtator. Do these names mean anything to you? They should. They were proud men, members of the Oneida Tribe of Native Americans whose tribal lands are situated in and around Green Bay, WI, a town that is more notable for it’s NFL Green Bay Packers than these men of bravery who posthumously received the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor in a ceremony held on the Oneida Reservation May 23, 2014. It’s been a long time coming for these specialists who served bravely in WWII. Their unit? US Marine Code Talkers.
Although it is the Navajo tribe that is most known for being Code Talkers, there were many tribes involved who received no recognition until lately, after many were deceased. The reason? They gave an oath never to reveal their part in the war, thus receiving no heroes welcome upon their return to America after the war. Many took the secret to their graves, never divulging how important their unit was in the war.
Code Talkers weren’t a new idea in WWII. The Choctaw Tribe, serving in the US Army, created the unit in WWI. This unit was named the Choctaw Code Talkers. However, the name Code Talker is generally referred to as the Navajos who served in the US Marines in WWII. During the war, the Japanese managed to break almost every code the United States military could come up with. The Japanese were fluent in many languages and had decoders who could almost always crack codes, thus obtaining strategic military decisions that helped them in battle.
You may wonder why Native Americans were willing to serve in Wartime for a country who had robbed them of lands, culture and language for so long. The answer is that Native Americans come from a long line of Warriors and it is an inbred spirit that calls them to protect what is rightfully theirs. So they came in droves to enlist in the service and join the league of Americans who fought for their country against Hitler. In 1942, according to records, 99% of all healthy Native Americans had registered for the draft. I read an anecdote that made me smile while researching this post. One Native American who offered to fight was turned down because he had no teeth. His answer? “I don’t want to bite them, I want to fight them!”
Phillip Johnston, a Civil Engineer who was brought up on the Navajo Reservation as the son of a missionary and was fluent in the language, approached the US Marine Corps at the start of WWII. He suggested there be a unit devised to train and use the Navajo as Code Talkers, as their dialect and language could not be understood because it was used solely on the reservation. Handpicked Native Americans became a class of soldiers never honored, but instrumental in helping to win the war. Johnson was given the go-ahead to train 200 Navajo as Code Talkers and it was proven that these men could encode, decode and transmit a 3-line English message in 20 seconds. At the time, decoding machines took 30 minutes. The first 29 Navajo to graduate helped establish and invent an alphabet based on Navajo words. These soldiers were known as the “29”. Because of their hard work, the Japanese could not understand the missives sent back and forth about strategy, location and other necessary contact information.
The irony of this is that Native Americans had, in the past, been forced to conform to English and lose their native tongue. An Oneida veteran, Cletus Ninham said, “My mom used to be punished. She would actually be beaten to stop speaking her language.”
Native Americans were excellent in basic training. With a history of marksmanship, patrolling, and scouting they made names for themselves. They were better able to endure thirst and loss of water than a normal soldier. They took to commando training; after all, their ancestors had invented it! One Native American soldier became a commando unit’s leading German-killer. These men were tough, they were focused, and they were fighting for their homeland.
Code Talkers were praised for the taking of Iwo Jima. Six Navajo Code Talkers were employed around the clock, sending and receiving over 800 messages, all without error. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, stated, “Iwo Jima would never have been taken by the Marines were it not for the Navajos.”
These Code Talkers were protected at all cost. Their unique specialty insisted that they be kept as safe from harm as possible as they were the only way the Americans could transmit and decode messages that could not be translated.
The declassification of the project in 1968 allowed President Ronald Regan to present Code Talkers with Certificates of Merit in 1982. After a bill signed by President Bill Clinton in December 2000, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, and the Silver Medal to the approximately 300 other Native Americans who qualified as a Navajo Code Talker. President George W Bush personally handed out the Gold Medals to the five living Code Talkers, one of who could not attend.
President George W Bush Jr signed the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 into law. This law depicted that all Native American Code Talkers (from both WWI and WWII) be honored for their service by presenting each tribe with a Gold Medal (to be kept in the Smithsonian Institution). Each Code Talker received a Silver Medal duplicate. So, back to Lloyd Schuyler, Rupert Adams, Hudson Doxtator and Rimton Doxtator, who have finally received the recognition they deserved. In the ceremonies on the Oneida Reservation in Green Bay, WI, it was a happy day for surviving relatives of the four Code Talkers from their tribe who served bravely in WWII and came home just like any other soldier.
Except, they weren’t.
The 2002 Movie Windtalkers was based on the Code Talkers in WWII. You can see the video trailer here, and if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.
Here’s a book I found on Amazon that looks like a great read about this subject. Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila
Books by L.Leander:
You can also find L.Leander here: