When most people hear the term “Code Talker,” they immediately think of the courageous Navajos who fought with the United States Marine and Army units throughout the Pacific in WWII. But the fact is that the original Code Talkers came about in WWI. One of those men was a Choctaw Nation warrior by the name of Joseph Oklahombi.
Oklahombi was born in the Kiamichi Mountains of Southeastern Oklahoma in what was then called Indian Territory. He was a full blooded Choctaw who would have been very familiar with stories about the Trail of Tears that his grandparents’ generation were forced to endure. They were forced to walk away from their home tribal lands in the southeastern woodlands of the United States in what was called the “Indian Removal Act,” which was promoted by then President Andrew Jackson. In 1846, 1,000 Choctaw were forced out of their native lands and made to walk all the way to Oklahoma Indian Territory.
Joseph Oklahombi was born on May 1, 1895, and grew up on the Choctaw Nation. When WWI came along, Oklahombi walked 22 miles to the nearest town and joined the Army. He was sent to Europe with D Co., 1st Bn., 141st Regiment, 71st Brigade of the 36th Infantry Division. He would find himself at one of the largest and bloodiest contests during WWI, the Meuse-Argonne campaign.
While the Allied and the German forces faced one another over a no-mans-land for months it became apparent to the American troops that their communications were being intercepted regularly by the Germans. To counter this, Choctaw soldiers from the 141st, 142nd and 143rd Regiments were called upon to use their native language to pass on important military information.
Oklahombi was one of those men called upon to use his native tongue to thwart the German ability to intercept those vital communications. He and the other Choctaw men thereby became the original Code Talkers. The Germans were unable to translate Code Talk messages, just as the Japanese would be unable to crack the Navajo Code Talk in the Pacific during WWII.
In October 1918, Oklahombi and 23 of his fellow D Co. soldiers were cut off from the rest of the rest of the company and were surrounded by vastly superior numbers. They were being raked by a German machine gun nest that was supported by 50 trench mortars. Oklahombi was able to rush and to take the machine gun position, which he and his fellow D Co. soldiers then turned on the Germans.
Oklahombi and his men held off the enemy for 4 days with no food or water and eventually caused so much havoc that, instead of being overrun, they were attributed with capturing 171 German Soldiers.
Oklahombi was awarded a Silver Star and Victory Ribbon for his actions during those four days in October of 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. A humble man by nature and culture, he returned home from the war with no fanfare or fuss. He rejoined his wife and children and worked in a sawmill. Like the other Code Talkers, he was sworn to secrecy about what he did during the war, just as the Navajo Code Talkers would be after WWII.
Oklahombi and the others honored that secrecy for the rest of their lives. Their families never even knew what they had done as Code Talkers.
As you will see in this video, the Choctaw Nation is trying to get Joseph Oklahombi’s Silver Star upgraded to a Medal Of Honor.
The Veterans Site is honored to bring the name of Joseph Oklahombi to the attention of our readers. What he and his fellow Code Talkers did was vital to the successful conclusion of both WWI and WWII. But we are honored also to tell his story as a warrior on the battlefield as well. Such names, such men, deserve the thanks and the respect of all Americans. We will never forget!Whizzco