SHAKO: Native American Heritage Month
America’s First Defenders
We almost let November go by without mentioning this is National Native American Heritage Month.
The Department of Defense has acknowledged the contributions of Native Americans to the country’s defense in a number of ceremonies, exhibits and performances. On Capitol Hill earlier in the month, Native American “code talkers” who used their tribal dialects to confuse and stymie the enemy in both Word War I and World War II, were honored in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.
The Marine Corps’ Navajo code talkers have gotten a lot of attention, due in part to the 2002 Nicholas Cage film “Wind Talkers,“ but soldiers and Marines from several other tribes including the Comanche, Choctaw and Meswaki thwarted German and Japanese troops listening in on U.S. field telephone and radio communications in both world wars.
According to the U.S. Army, Choctaw Soldiers joined the 36th Infantry Division in October 1918, becoming some of the Army’s first code talkers. The commander of the 142nd Infantry Regiment, said of them: “The enemy’s complete surprise is evidence that he could not decipher the message.” Within 24 hours after the Choctaw sent their first message, the tide of battle turned and U.S. soldiers drove the Germans out of Foret Ferme, France and the Army set up a Choctaw training program.
Native Americans didn’t just serve as code talkers. In the Civil War, the Cherokee and other tribes living in what is now the state of Oklahoma fought for both the Blue and the Gray. The War of 1812 also split the Creek (Muscogee) Indians and other tribes in the Southeastern United States. There were Indians with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and Indians fought on both sides in the Revolutionary War.
Click here to see a list of American Indians who were awarded the Medal of Honor by the U.S. Army. And click here for some first person accounts of Native Americans who served in World W II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Visit the Defense Department web page to learn more about Native Americans in uniform.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Technology, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: Army, Choctaw, Comanche, Indian Territory, Marine Corps, military codes, Native American Heritage Month, Native American soldiers, Navajo Code Talkers, Oklahoma, Topics.