July 21, 2005

Last WWII Comanche ‘code talker’ dies in Oklahoma

By Ben Fenwick

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (Reuters) - The last surviving
Comanche "code talker" from World War II, Charles Chibitty, has
died at a nursing home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a tribal spokeswoman
said on Thursday.

Chibitty, who died on Wednesday at age 83, was one of the
14 Comanche tribesmen who transmitted radio messages in their
native language during the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.

In a 2002 speech Chibitty said: "I wonder what the hell
Hitler thought when he heard those strange voices over there,
when we hit D-Day at Utah Beach. Now old Hitler, he's probably
scratching his head yet down in his grave."

He said they called Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler "posah tai
vo" which means "crazy white man."

The Germans could not understand them, thus the Comanches
were called "code talkers."

"They were most instrumental in D-Day during Normandy, and
he was the last one," said Jolene Schonchin, public information
officer for the tribe.

Raised in an Indian boarding school, Chibitty and other
Comanches were required by the white schoolmasters to speak
only English and were beaten if they spoke their native

"They were going to make little white boys out of us,
that's what me and my cousin always said," he told the Oklahoma
Gazette newspaper in a 2002 interview.

"But then the war broke out, and they started looking for
Comanches who could talk their tribe fluently."

Chibitty joined the Army in 1941 at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma,
when he and other Comanches heard the Army wanted them. Navajo
Indians were used for the same purpose in the Pacific theater.

By the time the code talkers got to England, the Allies had
amassed the largest invasion force in history.

Chibitty's unit landed on June 6, 1944, with Brig. Gen.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. on Utah beach, but in the wrong place.
One of the code talkers sent the first message of D-Day: "Right
beach, wrong place."

"We lost a lot of men there," Chibitty said. "You could see
guys going down everywhere when they were coming in on the

Chibitty's force later fought through the Siegfried line
and then in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest. The unit then
liberated a concentration camp.

In 1999, Chibitty was honored by the Pentagon with the
Knowlton Award for his World War II service.