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2005, July 20
Last WWII Comanche 'code talker' dies in Oklahoma
By Ben Fenwick Thu Jul 21, 2005 5:04 PM ET
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 language. "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 boats." 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.
After landing on Normandy's Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion, Charles Chibitty and the code talkers saw some of the heaviest action of the war. Chibitty moved to Tulsa after the war ended in 1945. In 1989, the French consul honored the three surviving code talkers, Chibitty, Roderick Red Elk, and Forrest Kassanavoid and were presented the Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Merit in recognition of code talker services in both world wars. In November, 1999, the U.S. Army presented a special award to Charles Chibitty, the last surviving Comanche code talker. In a ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, Chibitty was presented the Knowlton Award for his World War II service. Charles Chibitty is pictured doing his job as a code talker on Omaha Beach. He represents all of the Oklahoma Code Talkers of World War II.
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