One of the biggest problems for the Allies during World War I was Germany’s success with intercepting. Since we typically used encoding systems based on European languages or mathematics, the messages were not that difficult for the Germans to decode. This kept the Allies from being able to keep anything a surprise and allowed the German’s to stay one step ahead, until one company commander had a brilliant idea. After overhearing some of his men speaking in their native language, Choctaw, he realized that the German’s would have no way of understanding the language and that they could use it to send messages more safely. The impact of the Choctaw code talkers was felt immediately and is even credited with bringing about the end of the war more quickly. To test the effectiveness of the new code, they successfully surprised the enemy by withdrawing two companies from the front. Over the next few days the Allies attacked in full force, using the Choctaw Indians in a major role for communication. The Indians even had to invent new code for some of the military terms that they did not have words for, like referring to the artillery “big gun” and my personal favorite, referring to machine guns as “little gun shoot fast.” While the Choctaw Indians had a big impact in the end of World War I, I would say their greatest contribution is that they lead the way to using the Navajo Wind Talkers in World War II, who developed a complex code of over 600 terms as compared to the Choctaw’s 20 terms.
– Jonathan Samuelsen