Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — 

Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), and Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), today announced that Native American code talkers from eight of South Dakota’s tribes will be recognized for their dedicated and valorous service during World War I and World War II at a gold medal ceremony to be held at the U.S. Capitol on November 20, 2013.

The Congressional Gold Medal award is among the highest honors of appreciation and recognition bestowed on an individual, institution, or event by Congress. In total, 33 tribes from around the country will be recognized, and over 200 silver medals will be presented to families of code talkers. Thune and Johnson were cosponsors of the Senate version of The Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 (H.R. 4544), which was signed into law in October of 2008 and directed the issuance of medals to honor the contributions of Native American code talkers during World War I and World War II.

"While long overdue, this honor is very well deserved,” said Thune. “Code talkers provided secure communications that the Axis powers were never able to decode, ultimately helping save lives and enabling Allied victory. These brave men, their families, and tribes are to be honored for their service and their story remains an inspiration to all Americans. I look forward to welcoming tribal leaders and the families of these heroic men to Washington to celebrate the valiant efforts of their ancestors.”

“Code talkers from South Dakota and tribes throughout the country played a unique and vital role for the U.S. military in World War I and World War II,” Johnson said. “By using native languages, code talkers were able to communicate in a way that the enemy could not decode, thereby saving service members’ lives. I am pleased the code talkers are finally receiving this justly deserved recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“Drawing from their ancient heritage, the Code Talkers helped transform modern history through a system that was as effective as it was ingenious,” said Rep. Noem. “It is long overdue that we recognize the power and relief these Code Talkers brought our country and Allied forces in a time of need. I am proud our nation is honoring these brave heroes with the Gold Medal for the thousands of lives they saved and the victories in World War I and World War II that they helped secure.”

The American military's use of Native American code talkers goes back to October of 1918. The code talkers were extensively used throughout both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Because the innovative communications used by the code talkers were based on native languages and not mathematical progressions nor machine-based code, enemy forces were unable to exploit Allied exchanges for the length of the war. These secure communications proved to be both faster and more secure than other methods of encrypting and sending messages, an incredible benefit in keeping the advantage of surprise during combat operations.