Native Americans code talkers recently received the highest award that the U.S. Congress can give: the Congressional Gold Medal.
On Wednesday, Native American code talkers from across the United States were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in Washington, DC. During World Wars I and II, Native American code talkers transmitted signals based on 33 tribal dialects. Over 400 Native Americans served as code talkers during both World Wars.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. led the recognition ceremony, celebrating the 216 honored code talkers and their family members. Addressing the crowd filled with House and Senate leaders as well as other officials, Winnefield discussed the significance of honoring the service of code talkers during the month of November.
Winnefeld said, “During Native American Heritage Month, I have the great privilege of representing the finest military in the world in recognizing hundreds of Native Americans who wore the cloth of our nation in the distinctive way we celebrate today, and in such a courageous way, defending a country that did not always keep its word to their ancestors.”
“Throughout history, military leaders have sought the perfect code — signals the enemy cannot break, no matter how able the intelligence team,” Winnefeld said. “It was our code talkers who created voice codes that defied decoding.”
“These men were integral members of their teams — the 36th Infantry Division, the 4th Signals Company, the 81st Infantry Division, the 30th Infantry Division — learning Morse code and operating equipment to transmit messages quickly and accurately,” he added.
Code talkers served in secret, as their service to the United States wasn’t made public until 1968. Indigenous code talkers served in the fiercest of battles, with tribal members playing integral roles in the Meuse-Argonne, the Second Battle of the Somme, and on Utah Beach on D-Day.
“We can best honor these great warriors among us not just with well-deserved and long overdue recognition,” Winnefeld said, “but also with our own efforts to continue leveraging our nation’s diversity and to forever honor our veterans.”