Joseph Martinez with his grandfather's WWII artifacts
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
A small group of veterans being honored Friday are Native Americans. Those veterans were recruited to use the Navajo and Comanche languages to communicate in messages that could not be decoded by enemy forces.
"If they said one word wrong, thousands of lives could be saved or killed," says Joseph Martinez, the grandson of Charles Chibitty. Chibitty passed away in 2005. He was the last living WWII Comanche Code Talker.
"They used their language in WWII to communicate vital information from headquarters to the front," says Martinez. He is determined to keep code talker history alive. His grandfather's story starts in 1921.
"The American government had actually wanted to obliterate our language. My grandfather was put into a boarding school, every time he spoke Comanche he was punished for it," says Martinez. Then World War II began. Martinez says the language Chibitty was told to forget became a powerful tool, "The military was looking for Indians who had the language but no written equivalent."
Chibitty enlisted. He and other young Comanche started creating code. "Native American's never had a machine gun," says Martinez, "One guy came up with the idea of a sewing machine for the word, because his grandma had a sewing machine and it made a sound like a machine gun."
Three years later, Chibitty landed in Normandy. "He couldn't believe what men could do to each other," says Martinez. The items Chibitty brought back from the war are now a source of pride for his family.
"It's a big thing among the Comanche and other Native American tribe," says Martinez, "Without the code, we might be having a different history today or even speaking a different language."
He says Chibitty remained humble through it all, "My grandpa said, 'I was only doing a small part in a big picture.' He said, 'We've got to remember the ones that never came back home.'" Chibitty believed those soldiers were the real heroes.
Chibitty and the 16 other Comanche men he served with received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service in WWII. Martinez plans to open a museum in Tyler featuring Chibitty's WWII artifacts and history of code talkers.
Thursday, August 21 2014 7:40 PM EDT2014-08-21 23:40:00 GMT
The Henderson Police Department on Thursday announced two men already in custody in the Henderson Detention Center have been charged in connection with six additional burglaries, spanning two weeks.More >
The Henderson Police Department on Thursday announced two men already in custody in the Henderson Detention Center have been charged in connection with six additional burglaries, spanning two weeks. More >