KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - In many ways, Hopi tradition does not embrace war, personal pride or overt public recognition. However, April 23 has been formally set aside by the Hopi Tribe to annually recognize the major combat contributions of 10 of their tribal members to be remembered for their heroic service. Because of their attention to detail in how well they spoke their own tribal language, the veterans demonstrated military dedication to help create an "unbreakable secret code" that helped contribute to a successful U.S. war victory in World War II.
Ten Hopis were honored April 23 by distinguished visiting military personnel including the Ft. Huachuca Select Honor Guard-U.S. Army Lead Color Guard, numerous other tribal American Indian veterans, the Hopi-Navajo "Honor Riders" group, Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler, Flagstaff City Manager Kevin Burke, Navajo County Supervisor Jesse Thompson, and the veterans' Hopi family and clan relatives along with Hopi and Navajo community members at the Hopi Civic Center.
Hopi Code Talkers who were recognized on April 23 are U.S. Army PFC Charles Lomakema "Tawayawma," Shungo-pavi Village; PFC Perry Honani Sr. "Wupatawa," Shungopavi Village; Technical 5 Franklin Shupla "Awiino," Tewa Village; PFC Percival Navenma "Masa-hoyniwa," Mishungnovi Vill-age; PFC Floyd Dann Sr. "Lomahuytiwa," Moen-copi Village; PFC Travis S. Yaiva "Sikyawistiwa," Bacavi Village; PFC Frank C. Chapella "Tuukwavi," Tewa Village; PFC Warren Kooyaquaptewa "Shuute," Tewa Village; U.S. Army Air Force Sgt. Rex Pooyouma, "Sekyung'yum'tewa," Hotvela Village; and Private Orville Wadsworth "Dawahoynewa" Shungo-pavi Village.
The 10 Code Talkers' clan members, were present to hear - many for the first time - about their family members' military language contribution by keynote guest speaker Maj. Gen. Gill Beck, Commanding General of the 81st Regional Army Support Command.
Beck, whose own military background includes a Masters of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College and an LLM in Military from the Judge Advocate General's School, is a graduate of Appalachian State University and also has a degree from Duke University of Law.
"The Hopi Code Talker story is a great one. It's one of historic significance," said Beck. "From the 1st Marine Division, some of the most decisive battling took place and these Hopi men were in the midst of some of the most horrible fighting. But these Hopis drew from their Hopi culture, their Hopi heritage, their Hopi spiritual strength and with bravery and humility, they were able to break the enemy code, and able to communicate among their fighting units with secrecy. Literally thousands more could have been killed if not for their precise Hopi language skills in decoding. They did their part. This was in September of 1944 and they were doing something extremely significant for the future of our nation. The United States would not have been successful without these brave men."
At least eight of the original Hopi Code Talkers had boarded ships and were reunited with their units, the U.S. Army 223rd Infantry Regiment, 81st Infantry Division off the shores of Angaur Island, Palau.
Their assigned mission was to take over the island and formalize a central location in the Pacific Ocean, according to military documents. With the Japanese intelligence so highly advanced in breaking most military codes, the Hopi Code Talkers were able to use their own tribal language to create an "unbreakable code" in their winning military strategy.
Maj. Gen. Paul Mulle was in charge of the mission in 1944. His formal journal lists the fighting as lasting three brutal days and having one of the highest number of casualties during WWII, circled the island gaining control over Japanese forces. This single island takeover resulted in the final overall victory in the Pacific with a final win for the United States in the war.
"These heroic Hopi men, who did not seek special recognition, but are justified in having a special day set aside for them by their own tribal community. I truly appreciate what they have done, what they each contributed to help save countless American lives should not be forgotten," said Beck.
It has been five, long years to get the formal tribal, state and national recognition for the Hopi Code Talkers.
It started in March 2007, with a Hopi Tribal Council resolution that recognized the original eight Code Talkers in the 323rd Infantry, "Wildcat" Division. Then in October 2008, the 110th Congress passed a public law,1-420, to issue recognition medals to all Native American Code Talkers. In January 2011, Sen. Jack Jackson Jr., Arizona Legislature District 2, introduced Senate resolution for code talker recognition SCR-1009. SCR-1009 passed unanimously in the Arizona House of Representatives in April 2011.
In May 2011, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett formally signed SCR-1009 during a special ceremony at the Hopi Veteran's Memorial Center.
Last March, the Hopi Tribal Council passed resolution H-041-2012 that established April 23 of each year as Hopi Code Talker Recognition Day.
The Hopi Code Talkers, who served in the U.S. Army and the 380th Bombardment Group, were also known as the "Wildcat" Division during World War II. They were selected to develop this special secret code by virtue of their skills in their own tribal Hopi language. By speaking and utilizing their Hopi tongue, they confused the Japanese enemy and contributed to the liberation of the South Pacific Islands.