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Last WWII Comanche 'code talker' dies

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Charles Chibitty

Charles Chibitty, the last surviving member of the group of 17 who served in World War II as the Comanche "code talkers" died in a Tulsa, Oklahoma nursing home July 20. He was 83.

Chibitty was among the 14 Comanches who landed with the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beaches where they reported by radio to division headquarters on the progress of the landings. The Comanche were dubbed code talkers because the American Indian language has no written record, and it was never broken by the Germans during the war.

One of the first messages transmitted in Comanche language during the landings was "right beach, wrong place". It warned soldiers they landed about a half mile from their intended target. Chibitty served with a unit that landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944.

Mr.Chibitty served with the rank of a Corporal in the 4th Infantry Division that engaged in the breakthrough of the Siegfried line in Hurtgen Forest. His division also saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and the rescue of the "Lost Battalion". His division was among the first to undertake the liberation of Paris. Then later, the 4th Infantry was the first to enter Germany.

The Comanches, who came from the Lawton area in Oklahoma, heard rumors of a military plan to organize a native speaking unit. He enlisted in 1941, and along with 19 others, they were trained for special duty by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. All were sent to Fort Benning, but three remained state-side because they had dependents and deployment in the mission was dangerous.

The U.S. declassified the code talker program in 1968. Only three remained living at the time. The French Government gave special honors to the Comanches by bestowing them with the Chevalier of the National Order of Merit in 1989. Mr. Chibitty was honored in 1999 when the Pentagon bestowed on him the Knowlton Award.

In a 1999 interview with the Armed Forces Information Center, Chibitty said: "The Navajo did the same thing. The Navajos became code talkers about a year after the Comanches, but there were over a hundred of them because they had so much territory [in the Pacific Theater] to cover."

Joe Holley of the Washington Post recalled this quote from Mr. Chibitty in 2002:

"It’s strange, but growing up as a child I was forbidden speak my native language at school. Later my country asked me to. My language helped win the war, and that makes me very proud. Very proud."

The funeral service was held Tuesday at 10 a.m. He has three surviving grandchildren.

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