The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II

Synopsis

Among the allied troops that came ashore in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, were thirteen Comanches in the 4th Infantry Division, 4th Signal Company. Under German fire they laid communications lines and began sending messages in a form never before heard in Europe--coded Comanche. For the rest of World War II, the Comanche Code Talkers played a vital role in transmitting orders and messages in a code that was never broken by the Germans. This book tells the full story of the Comanche Code Talkers for the first time. Drawing on interviews with all surviving members of the unit, their original training officer, and fellow soldiers, as well as military records and news accounts, William C. Meadows follows the group from their recruitment and training to their active duty in World War II and on through their postwar lives up to the present. He also provides the first comparison of Native American code talking programs, comparing the Comanche Code Talkers with their better-known Navajo counterparts in the Pacific and with other Native Americans who used their languages, coded or not, for secret communication. Meadows sets this history in a larger discussion of the development of Native American code talking in World Wars I and II, identifying two distinct forms of Native American code talking, examining the attitudes of the American military toward Native American code talkers, and assessing the complex cultural factors that led Comanche and other Native Americans to serve their country in this way.

Excerpt

On June 6, 1944, D-Day, thirteen Comanches in the Fourth Infantry Division, Fourth Signal Company, made an amphibious landing with thousands of Allied troops along the Utah Beachhead on the Normandy coast of France. While under German fire, they immediately began to lay wire for communications transmission lines and began to send their messages in a form never before heard in Europe, in coded Comanche. During the next eleven months, this small, select group of Native Americans—the Comanche Code Talkers—would play a contributing role in the Allied war effort. They would transmit coded orders and messages in a form that the Germans, Italians, and even other Comanches not trained as code talkers could not understand. The Germans remained perplexed about this code, a form they were never able to break, for many years following the war. The Comanche Code Talkers were a small group of Comanche men who were specially recruited and trained in communications skills and used their native Comanche language to communicate critical messages during World War II.

THE NUMUNUU

Of all of the Plains tribes, the Numunuu, meaning “People” or “The People” (often spelled by Anglos as “Numina,” and popularly known as the Comanches), are one of the most well known by name (Richardson 1933; Wallace and Hoebel 1952; Kavanagh 1996), but have long been one of the least understood in terms of actual cultural content. Originally a part of the Numic-speaking Shoshone from Wyoming, the Numunuu, or Comanches, separated and migrated southward in the mid- to late seventeenth century. By the early to mid-eighteenth century, the Co-

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