Tlingit code talkers to be honored for wartime service

Alaska’s Tlingit code talkers will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for their contributions to World Wars I and II.

Never heard of a Tlingit code talker, you say?

While the story of Navajo code talkers who used their complex language to help the United States military transmit secret tactical messages is famous, it’s not unique to them.

Native American languages were used during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Their use is credited for saving the lives of many servicemembers. An estimated 400 to 500 Native American code talkers served in the United States Marine Corps.

Altogether, 33 tribes will be honored at Wednesday’s ceremony. Commander William “Ozzie” Sheakley will receive the medals on behalf of the Tlingit tribe. Tribal leader Bill Thomas and Jeff David Jr., a descendant of one of the Tlingit code talkers, will also be present.

The ceremony is a result of the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008. The gold medals will be housed at the Smithsonian Institution. Duplicate silver medals will be presented to about 200 code talkers and their families during the ceremony.


• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at Follow her on Twitter at


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