The role of Native American “code talkers” in transmitting secrets during the Second World War has been finally recognised in the US.
Almost a quarter of a century after France bestowed its highest honour on Native Americans who used their indigenous language to keep military secrets from German and Japanese military intelligence, Congress presented the Congressional Gold Medal to some 250 Native American code talkers and their relatives.
While locations such as Bletchley Park, where British academics and eccentrics cracked German codes, have been the subject of countless studies, the role of the Native Americans in Allied victories has been less well rewarded.
“This is long overdue,” Wallace Coffey, chairman of the Comanche Nation, said. He told the AFP that he had travelled from Oklahoma to receive the medal on behalf of 17 Comanche code talkers, known in their native tongue as “Numurekwa’etuu”.
American Indians from 33 tribes were part of the ceremony, many of their members recognised posthumously. Some 400 Navajo soldiers received Congressional medals in 2000, but those from other tribes had until today to receive their medals for sending radio messages in the native dialects.