Frida Hahn - Code Talkers

Ozbolt, Ivan C. ivan.ozbolt at
Wed Apr 30 11:02:54 UTC 2008

Hello all,

I wrote a paper on the code talkers for a linguistic anthropology class at the University of Oklahoma a year ago, and my impression was that there is still a lot to be researched on the subject. For instance, most studies are only historical and don’t analyze the codes from a linguistic or cryptographic perspective.

« The Comanche Code Talkers of World War II” by William C. Meadows is a fascinating book that lists all the Native languages used by the military during WWI and WWII. Most were used occasionally, and only a few ones had actual codes (Navajo and Comanche for instance).

I also remember an article that is an in-depth analysis of the Navajo code and points out that from a cryptographic perspective the code had actually several weaknesses. Thus it is not so clear why it was never broken, even though the Japanese had no documentation of the language. Couldn’t they have linguists working on the language and combine their research with the cryptographs’? To which extent does the absence of documentation on a language penalize cryptographs in breaking a code (knowing that it doesn’t take very long for a linguist to analyze and inventory a completely “new” and “unknown” language)?

According to the sources I consulted, none of these codes was ever broken, not even the Navajo’s (even though it was used by several hundred people over an extended period of time). Most books on the subject simply state that this was so because Navajo is an incredibly difficult language. Is that a sufficient reason? In comparison, it only took the American cryptographs a few weeks to break the new Japanese codes (after they had changed them), but they spoke Japanese!

I am not at all an expert on the code talkers, but I remember having finished writing my paper with many unanswered questions (maybe some of you could answer them!)! I can also email my bibliography and paper to anyone interested.

Ivan Ozbolt

From: owner-siouan at [owner-siouan at] On Behalf Of Anthony Grant [Granta at]
Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 5:24 AM
To: siouan at
Subject: RE: Frida Hahn

Dear all:

The Osprey military history series has a book about the Navajo Code Talkers, though it's rather light on linguistics. It does refer to the Comanche Code Talkers too, though not to the cases of Choctaw and Mikasuki code talk that I've come across, nor yet to the use of Omaha-Ponca in the Korean War.


>>> "Rankin, Robert L" <rankin at> 04/30/08 3:02 am >>>
Neat.  Is there a definitive book on all this?  There certainly should be.



From: owner-siouan at on behalf of Tom Leonard
Sent: Tue 4/29/2008 12:14 PM
To: siouan at
Subject: Re: Frida Hahn

 >> I heard it as an explanation why the Code Talkers were only used in
the Pacific Theater during the war -- the military was afraid the
Germans already knew too much. <<

Comanche Code Talkers were in the European Theater.  Most were on Omaha
Beach on D-day. For the most part, Comanche Code Talkers were given very
little recognition compared with the Navajo Talkers in the Pacific Theater.

BTW, there were some Ponca and Omaha Code Talkers used during the Korean
War (along with some incredibly funny stories).

Rankin, Robert L wrote:
> Tom,
> I've heard this story also, and it's interesting that Oklahoma tribes have analogous stories.  I heard it as an explanation why the Code Talkers were only used in the Pacific Theater during the war -- the military was afraid the Germans already knew too much.
> It would be surprising if Jewish scholars participated in this intelligence gathering, but you just never know. . . .  Frida Hahn could have been her legend name.  These stories ought to be collected and the truth run down.
> If this is true, there should also be declassified Abwehr records of it somewhere in the Bundesrepublik today.  They would name names and might even be an interesting source of linguistic data from that period!
> I guess the definitive history of the Code Talkers is still yet to be written.
> Bob

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