Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota receive the Congressional Code Talkers Medal of Service | South Dakota History

Headline from the November 8, 2013 edition of the Rapid City Journal
Rapid City Journal
Headline from the November 8, 2013 edition of the Rapid City Journal

On November 20, 2013, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota code talkers who served in World War II against Germany and Japan posthumously received the Congressional Code Talkers Medal of Service. Sixty-nine code talkers representing eight of the Sioux Nation tribes in the state were recognized during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

There were 15 different tribes and dialects that were used to send secret messages via radio communications during WWII. The concept was proved on the battlefields of WWI. The Choctaw Telephone Squad and other Native communications experts and messengers served along the front in France, but the practice was more common and widespread during World War II.

The US Army was the first branch of the military that began recruiting code talkers in 1940. The Sioux Nation Code Talkers were speaking Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota. They served mostly in the Pacific theater starting in the Philippines. Some members went on to be part of the Japan occupation unit.

An article published by the National Security Agency documents that “Clarence Wolf Guts, an Ogalala Lakota Code Talker, may have been best known. He was the personal Code Talker, or radio man, for General Paul Mueller, commander of the 81st Infantry Division. Wolf Guts could “read, write, and speak” Lakota.”

Later in life, “Wolf Guts’ said he might well have been the only Code Talker who was to be killed to prevent capture by the enemy.”

Code talkers were told to “kept quiet about their wartime missions and deeds.” But all of that changed when the military declassified information about the Code Talkers. Eventually, in 2008, the “Code Talkers Recognition Act” was passed to honor all Native American Code Talkers. Wolf Guts was still alive to testify to Congress about American Indian accomplishments during the war, but he passed away in 2010 before the Congressional Gold Medals were awarded in 2013 to all Sioux Nation Code Talkers.

That ceremony, awarding the congressional gold medals, was on this day in 2013.

Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Dakota Wesleyan University.