Salutes & Awards

November 1, 2012

Charles Chibitty — Comanche code-talker

Tags:
Ruth Quinn
USAICoE History Office


In June 1944, when Comanche Indian Cpl. Charles Chibitty landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, his first radio message was to another Comanche on an incoming boat. He transmitted it in his native tongue. In English, the message was: “Five miles to the right of the designated area and five miles inland, the fighting is fierce, and we need help.” At 23, he was already a veteran code-talker. There were a total of 14 Comanche who hit the beach that day. Two were wounded, but they all survived.

Chibitty’s journey to that moment in time began in the Wichita Mountains north of Lawton, Okla., in 1921. He grew up speaking his tribe’s native language. A descendant on his mother’s side from Chief Ten Bears, Chibitty’s name, in Comanche, means “holding on good.” That name would be important in the coming years as he worked to hold on to his own identity.

As a child, Chibitty attended the Fort Sill Indian School, Fort Sill, Okla., where he was punished if he spoke Comanche. The school was one of many government-run boarding schools established to assimilate Indian children. The Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit, “Native Words, Native Warriors,” explains that the boarding schools “were founded to eliminate traditional American Indian ways of life and replace them with mainstream American culture. Initially, the government forced many Indian families to send their children to boarding schools. Later, Indian families chose to send their children because there were no other schools available.” The schools used humiliation, punishment and coercion to separate the children from their native religion, language and traditions.

Chibitty attended high school at the Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kan. His native language was not forbidden there, but he was schooled in a strict, militaristic style. Far from his family, Chibitty and his classmates exchanged traditional clothing and hairstyles for uniforms and crew cuts. They became accustomed to marching drills, following orders and strenuous athletics. While at school, he heard the rumors of war and learned that the military planned to organize a native-speaking unit. During Christmas break in 1940, Chibitty asked for and received his mother’s permission to enlist.

Pvt. Chibitty easily transitioned into military life. He joined 16 other Comanche sent to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training and then to the Signal School at Fort Gordon, Ga., for training as radio men. Their primary mission was to create a coded language the Germans could not decipher. They created a military dictionary of 100 words from their native tongue. If a word they needed did not exist in Comanche, they made up a term from other Comanche words to fill that need. Their code was never broken. In addition to D-Day, Chibitty participated in fighting at St. Lo, Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and the rescue of the “lost battalion.”

During World War II, Cpl. Chibitty earned five campaign battle stars and received a cavalry officer’s saber from his tribe, an honor comparable to the Medal of Honor among the Comanche. But it took nearly 45 years for the government to honor the code-talkers for their contributions. In 1989, the French government recognized the code-talkers of both world wars. Ten years later, Chibitty received a Knowlton Award from the Military Intelligence Corps Association at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. Somewhat uncomfortable with the attention, he focused on his Comanche friends who served with him. Holding back tears, Chibitty commented, “I always wonder why it took so long to recognize us for what we did … They [his deceased comrades] are not here to enjoy what I’m getting after all these years. Yes, it’s been a long, long time.”

Chibitty “held on good” to his Native American roots, even when he was punished for doing so. His Comanche language was both a source of comfort to him and an asset to his military mission. Throughout his life he remained closely connected to his native culture, dancing in gourd dances to honor veterans and in pow-wow contests throughout the country, teaching his beloved Comanche language to anyone who was interested. He became a respected chief of his people, inspiring new generations to respect their traditions and preserve their culture. For this, and for his exceptional contributions and sacrifice made during the war, America owes him her deepest gratitude.

(Author’s note: Much of the information in this article on Chibitty was taken from The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian exhibit “Native Words, Native Warriors.” For online access, go to http://nmai.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/. A traveling version of the exhibit is being shown in conjunction with “Navajo Code Talkers, Photographs by Kenji Kawano” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix through March 31. For information, go to http://www.heard.org/visit/index.html.)

Photo captions

Charles Chibitty (World War II)
Photo credit: Photo from Whitefeather59’s blog, http://whitefeather59.wordpress.com/

Photo credit: Army Heritage Center Foundation.
Charles Chibitty, 23, a Comanche Indian code talker with the 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach.

Chibitty with Code Talkers

Chibitty Honored
Photo credit: Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Broils
Arthur Money, assistant secretary of defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence presents Charles Chibitty with a cased American flag flown over the capitol during ceremonies in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. Chibitty, 78, is the last surviving World War II Army Comanche code-talker.

Charles Chibitty with Rumsfeld:




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Stephanie Caffall

Women’s history showcased during special event Wednesday

Stephanie Caffall Fort Huachuca’s Thunder Mountain Activity Centre was the site of an event titled, “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” Wednesday in celebration for National Women’s History Month. After the reading...
 
 
DoD

DOD warns troops, families to be cyber crime smart

WASHINGTON — Defense Department employees and their families should be vigilant when guarding personal and work information from expanding cyber-criminal activity, and to know how to recognize scammer tactics, according to DOD’s chief information officer. Terry Halvorsen issued a DOD-wide memorandum March 18 about the growing threat of cybercrime “phishing” and “spear phishing” in e...
 
 

Army health leaders advocate for importance of nutrition

WASHINGTON — During National Nutrition Month in March, “we encourage each of you to renew a commitment to achieving your personal Performance Triad goals,” said Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho. This year’s theme is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle,” she said. The Performance Triad focuses on the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition...
 

 
Natalie Lakosil

Convoy exercise helps ready 111th MI Bde. for emergencies

Natalie Lakosil Soldiers from the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade take a short rest in lower Garden Canyon before returning to the motor pool as part of a convoy training exercise Wednesday. The exercise helps the brigade s...
 
 

Fort Huachuca Criminal Punishment Bulletin – February

For the month of February, in addition to Court-Martial and U.S. Federal Court Proceedings, 31 Soldiers were disciplined under Article 15, UCMJ; and 25 Soldiers were administratively separated, including 2 for misconduct. The following are notable recent criminal proceedings: A specialist assigned to the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion was tried at a General Court-Martial. The...
 
 
Natalie Lakosil

111th MI Bde. NCO, Soldier, Platoon Sgt. of Quarter winners selected

Natalie Lakosil Sgt. Jason Grider, Alpha Company, 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, inspects uniforms during the in-ranks inspection portion of the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarte...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin