Code Talkers honored with name on new hall on post
Tribal leaders joined Fort Sill on Friday in a proud moment for all the dedication of Code Talker Hall.
Building 2120 on the south side of Randolph Road west of Currie Road commands a superb view of Medicine Bluff, which is held sacred by both Comanches and Kiowas. It joins Poolaw Hall and I-See-O Hall as the newest of three Fort Sill buildings and numerous auditoriums and conference centers named in honor of American Indians. Best of all, it memorializes the contributions of Native American heroes of World Wars I and II.
"It's a very emotional day for me. I'm quite pleased, I'm proud, I'm happy," said Comanche Nation Chairman Wallace Coffey. He recalled traveling to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, 2013, for a ceremony recognizing 216 Code Talkers from 25 Native American tribes and the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can bestow.
Nona Gail Reed of Lawton, the oldest daughter of Code Talker Wellington Mihecoby, and her sister, Mona Selph of Albuquerque, N.M., traveled to France last June to collect sand from Utah Beach so they could sprinkle it in honor of the Code Talkers at Friday's ceremony. Their brother, Wellington Mihecoby Jr. of Farmington, N.M., came with them.
"I thought this was a most special opportunity to sprinkle that sand. Ö This is a blessed event," Reed said. "I'm elated (to have the building named for the Code Talkers). They're gone, but they'll never be forgotten."
Coffey said he's grateful to have Code Talker Hall named for the tribal war heroes. He called the dedication the culmination of five years of hard work by people like retired Sgt. Maj. Lanny Asepermy, who lobbied Congress for two years to secure passage of the Code Talker Recognition Act of 2008.
According to a narrative read by Michael Simmons, the 142nd Infantry Regiment had a company of Indians who spoke 26 different languages or dialects, only four or five of which had been reduced to writing. Two Native American officers were selected to supervise a communications system staffed by Choctaw Indians.
World War II saw a more extensive use of Code Talkers, as these Native Americans came to be known. Although the Comanche language was utilized in battle during World War I, it wasn't until World War II that an organized code was developed. Twenty-one Comanche men were handpicked by the U.S. government to participate in the WWII Code Talker program. Seventeen of those men went on to enlist in the U.S. Army and receive training as radio operators and line repairmen with the 4th Infantry Division.
During this time, they developed secret Comanche code words that no one outside the group would be able to understand, including other Comanches. Encryption devices of the time were slow, sometimes taking hours to decipher messages. Using code words, a Code Talker could decipher the same message in less than three minutes. The code used by the Code Talkers proved highly successful; in fact, their codes were never broken.
Code Talkers were sent overseas during WWII to fight in both the Pacific and European Theaters. Conceived in 1918, the Code Talkers eventually comprised more than 400 Native Americans who volunteered to defend the nation. They are credited with saving the lives of thousands of American and Allied service men.
Fort Sill Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Waters said that as Fort Sill's new Central Issue Facility, the purpose of Code Talker Hall will be to issue soldiers both old and new the equipment and uniforms they will need in the Army.
"Fort Sill being a TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command) unit, and having a basic training unit, brand-new soldiers come here for the first time to get their first issuance of military gear. So it's very appropriate to have this building named after the Code Talkers because these future soldiers coming in will serve our country faithfully and selflessly like the Code Talkers, and seeing those words on the building and seeing that monument hopefully will inspire them to do great things like the Code Talkers did," Waters said.
Sgt. Darrell Kauley read the honorary roll call of area tribesmen who served as Code Talkers. Those from WWI include Pvt. Calvin Atchavit, Pvt. George Clark, Pvt. Gilbert Conwoop and Pvt. Edward Nahquaddy Sr. Those from WWII include Sgt. Melvin Permansu, Technician 4th Grade Haddon Codynah, Technician 4th Grade Morris Tabbyyetchy, Cpl. Forrest Kassanavoid, Technician 5th Grade Charles Chibitty, Technician 5th Grade Robert Holder, Technician 5th Grade Clifford Ototivo Sr., Technician 5th Grade Simmons Parker, Technician 5th Grade Willis Yackeschi, Pfc. Perry Noyobad, Pfc. Roderick Red Elk, Pfc. Larry Saupitty, Pvt. Edward Nahquaddy, Pvt. Elgin Red Elk, Pvt. Anthony Tabbytite, Pvt. Ralph Wahnee, Leonard Cozad Sr., Jim Paddlety and John Tsatoke.
"These warriors selflessly served our nation, and we are forever grateful. In a desperate hour, they gave their country a service that only they could give," Waters said. "They changed the course of modern history."