The Navajo code talkers of World War II have received a lot of publicity and attention in recent years, but what few people realize is that Native American speaking code talkers were actually first used towards the end of World War I where a group of Choctaw Indians helped win several key battles in the Mousse-Argonne campaign, which was to be final big German push.
In the final days of World War I, eight men of the Choctaw Nation were serving in the same battalion, which was almost totally surrounded by German forces. To make the situation even more hopeless, the Germans had broken the 'code' the Americans were using, and were capturing about 1 in 4 of the messengers sent to deliver information between companies on the battle line. Captain Lawrence, commander of one of the companies happened to hear two of the men conversing in their native language. Pulling the men aside, Lawrence determined that the battalion had eight men fluent in the Choctaw language and that two of them were in headquarters at that moment. Within hours, the eight men had been reassigned so that at least one of them was in each field company headquarters. These eight men now handled field telephone calls, translated radio messages, and wrote field orders, all in the Choctaw language. The Germans were unable to break the 'code' and within 24 hours, the tide of the battle had turned, and within 72 hours, the Germans were in full retreat.
Sadly, although the battalion commander told the men he was putting them in for medals, the men never received any recognition from the army for their contributions. The last Choctaw code talker died in 1982.
The eight Choctaw code talkers were Solomon Lewis, Mitchell Bobb, Ben Carterby, Robert Taylor, Jeff Nelson, Pete Maytubby, James Edward, and Calvin Wilson.