During World War II, General Paul Mueller, commander of the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry, recruited a handful of soldiers from native Sioux tribes for a special mission that would keep the Japanese from intercepting vital communications. The General intended to confuse the enemy by sending all strategic messages in a coded Native American language.
On Wednesday, the last of the Lakota code talkers, Clarence Wolf Guts, died at 86 and was buried with honors in the Black Hills National Cemetery.
Wolf Guts was Gen. Mueller’s personal code talker, and traveled with him and the 81st division as it moved from island to island in the Pacific, headed for Japan.
A total of 11 Lakotas from South Dakota joined the mission and learned how to operate military radios to transmit communications between their units on the battlefield. Their special language helped the army to move troops and supplies undetected, and eventually win the war. German and Japanese cryptographers never were able to decipher any of the Native American-based code.
Another unit of Navajo code talkers were commended for their skill, speed and accuracy working with the U.S. Marine Corps. At Iwo Jima, six Navajo code talkers worked around the clock during the first two days of the battle, sending and receiving over 800 messages, all without error. Their commander stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”
The once-classified units were finally publicized in a book and a subsequent 2002 film called “Windtalkers.” Nicolas Cage played a body guard sent by Marines to protect the valuable and vulnerable code talker, to ensure that he would never be captured alive.
WATCH a video below, and READ the story of Wolf Guts in a news report via the Rapid City Journal.
(For more of the story, read a longer feature article in South Dakota Magazine)