In Passing: Charles Chibitty, 83
The last of the Commanche code talkers, who used the Commanche language to communicate sensitive information over the radio during World War II, died on 20 July.
The Navajo code talkers were more numerous and more famous. Navajo code talkers served in the Pacific Theater. Their lesser known Commanche comrades served in Europe. Choctaw Indians also served as code talkers. Both groups used their native languages, supplemented with coded terms for military jargon that did not exist in those languages, to send indecipherable messages faster than by using conventional codes.
The "code" spoken by the code talkers was not very complex and could have been broken had someone with knowledge of the language been listening, but the fact that almost no non-native speakers of those languages existed and the information they transmitted was tactical in nature and only useful for hours at best, the code talkers proved a very secure way to communicate.
"It’s strange, but growing up as a child I was forbidden to speak my native language at school," Chibitty said in 2002. "Later my country asked me to. My language helped win the war, and that makes me very proud."
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton