Vintage Vault - The Original Code Talkers

By Paul

In this issue of Vintage Vault I once again
turn to Stars and Stripes Magazine which
reveals a little fact which may take
Nicholas Cage, Navajo Indians and the
makers of Windtalkers by surprise.

The article also provides some insight on how
Americans thought of Indians during that era.
Notice the double levels of condescending tone,
both towards the Indians and the envisaged
ill-educated readers, by the writer. Also notable
is the usage of the idiom ‘hit upon an idea’
already in use in that era.

Stars and

January 10, 1919.




Sioux Observer and Receiver
Make Things Easy for gunners


Because of the nature of the country
over which American troops fought in
the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the
Germans found it easy at times
to cut into our telephone wires.
The commander of one brigade of artillery
attached to an American division was
particularly annoyed by enemy wire-tappers
in heavily wooded sections of the Argonne.
Code messages from artillery observers
were being intercepted by Boche listeners-in,
and the commander knew, as all armies
know, that no code is impregnable when
experts get working on it.
The artillery commander took up with the
colonel of one of his line regiments the
question of the Huns’ wire-tapping activities.
And the colonel hit upon an idea.

Two Indians, both of proud Sioux lineage,
members of one of his companies; were
assigned as telephone operators. One was
to go forward with the artillery observer,
the other to remain at the brigade receiving
end of the wire which the artillery commander
knew the Germans had that day tapped
somewhere along the line.
The two Sioux, both intelligent, willing men,
were sent fore and given instructions. Those
instructions were to transmit, in the language
of their fathers, all messages given them at
their posts.
Now, when two Sioux Indians get talking
together in their own tongue, what they say
sounds very much like code, but isn’t. Anyway,
it raised hob with the code experts of certain
Prussian guard units.
The Sioux stuck on their jobs for three days
and nights. They and the artillery commander
and their own colonel enjoyed the situation
immensely. If the Germans got any fun out
of it, they kept it to themselves.