First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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WW1 Choctaw code talkers

Latest hand-picked First World War news.

The first code talkers: Choctaw telephone squad, 142nd Infantry   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Choctaw Indians were the first "code talkers" in the U.S. military, using their language a generation before the World War II Navajos. A band of Choctaw Indians volunteered when the U.S. entered WW1 and joined the 36th Infantry Division. They were never recognized, and their descendants have been on the offensive to change that. "We don't have a lot of Indian heroes," said Tewanna Edwards, the great-niece of Choctaw veteran Otis Leader. They met with some success when Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez honored the 18 Choctaw code talkers at a ceremony in Austin. Families believe that the code talkers deserve a Congressional Gold Medal, which the WWII Navajos received.

Origins of the assault rifle - stormtroopers and hot barrels
Assault rifles first began to be considered during and after World War I. Back then soldiers carried bolt-action rifles such as the British Lee-Enfield, German Mauser etc. These shooters were expensive and far from ideal for struggle in trenches or bunkers. They were too long and heavy to be handled in a tight spot, and working the bolt between shots was slow work in an arms-length fight. Machine guns were much too cumbersome, and rapid-firing pistols were often carried only by officers, and often held only 6 cartridges. The first of the new notions was a lighter machine gun, fed from a drum or box, which could be carried more easily to support an infantry attack.

Restoring Historic Military Vehicles -- WWI-era French tank
The repair bay on Richardson Tank Motor Park, an annex to the Patton Museum, is filled with what could be pieces of a life-sized hobby model kit. There is an empty hull from a WWI-era French tank sitting on a stand with a freshly-painted turret off to the side. Restoration specialists Steve Wise and O.B. Edens both have backgrounds in maintenance and tank repair, but there's a fair amount of creativity they need to bring to the job. For instance, on the French tank, which was used in 1918 and found in pieces in an Afghan salvage yard, the rollers aren't lubricated the way they are today. And there's no manual to read: French tanks from 1918 don't come with instructions.

Digging up World War 1 guns: 77mm field gun, 76mm trench mortar
Military collector Bruce Buchanan is in no doubt why Ballina Shire Council should be digging up its buried WWI trophy guns: "They`re memorials." He was in Ballina showing council`s heritage officer, Kate Gahan, where he saw the 2 guns buried at one of the town`s old tips in the 1960s. "Men would have died capturing those weapons. I`d like to see them recovered. They should never have been buried in the first place." Young Buchanan discovered the two guns: a 77mm field gun captured in 1918 near the Somme, and a 76mm trench mortar captured in 1918 at Accroche Wood ќ while playing at the tip, which was closed not long after he made his discovery.

Military history prove useful - World War 1 British artillery shell
When Mark Ashford opted to help his son Chris with his A-Level history he cannot have imagined his love of military history would prove useful in such dramatic way. But when he learned of an unexploded bomb he realised he would be the best man for the job. "I am an avid reader of military history and had been helping my son with his A-Level history, which had involved a trip to Flanders." The First World War British artillery shell, 14in in diameter, had been lying in the corner of a garden for at least 10 years, left behind by the previous owner. "The new owner had decided he wanted to clean it and put it in the house as a conversation piece."

Armor mystery - Helmet is rare example of a WWI experiment [pdf]   (Article no longer available from the original source)
WWI helmet excavated near Fort Vancouver based on medieval design: Soldiers from Vancouver have fought in a lot of history-changing battles, but that list of campaigns does not include the Crusades. So where - and when - did that visored steel helmet excavated come from? It looks for all the world like a relic of the slash-and-stab era of medieval combat, and that's actually what inspired its design. But the artifact is a rare example of a WW1 experiment. The steel helmet was recovered during excavations of the reconstructed fort in 1971. It probably was manufactured by the Ford Motor Co. in Nov 1918. It's a U.S. Army Model 8 helmet and only 1,300 were made.

Secret weapon - Choctaw code talkers aided U.S. forces in WWI   (Article no longer available from the original source)
In 1917, newspapers were filled with the fear of war. German submarines were spotted in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Dallas a hiker had been arrested as a spy. He had maps of the area. On April, 5, it was reported that federal agents had followed 3 men around the Fort Worth Stockyards. One of those men turned out to be Otis Leader, a large Choctaw Indian. Not only was he not a spy, but he went on to become one of the US' most successful weapons against the Germans in WWI. He became a member of the Choctaw code talkers, a secret American unit that has been overlooked by history.

Stories of Choctaw Nation code talkers in World War I
"The enemy possessed an excellent observation on us, and harassed us with high explosive and gas shells... It was quite difficult to transport material over fire swept roads ceaselessly harassed by hostile artillery." The war efforts had come to a halt, because the Germans could decode all of the messages and knew the action plans. But when the Choctaw soldiers began speaking to each other, the Germans were thrown a curve ball. "The Germans didn`t understand Choctaw. They opened all the communications up. The Choctaws are the original code talkers of WWI. They`ve never been recognized."

Choctaw WW1 Code Talkers documentary   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Choctaw Chief Gregory E. Pyle announces that the premiere of a 20-minute documentary "Telephone Warriors: The Story of the Choctaw Code Talkers" by Valerie Red-Horse on the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I is scheduled for Jan. 12 at the Oklahoma History Center. This is also an opportunity to see the Code Talker exhibits - combination of the Smithsonian "Native Words, Native Warriors" and the Center's "Hidden Voices, Coded Words". Many Choctaw men volunteered in WWI. 18 of these veterans have been documented as the first to use a Native American language as a "code" to transmit military messages.

Choctaws seeking medals for WW1 code talkers
When U.S. troops were ordered to France in 1917 during World War 1, 15 Choctaw soldiers in the 36th Division used their native language to communicate between units. The Choctaw effort was successful: German intelligence officers failed to break the code. Choctaw code talkers risked their lives during war for their country, and tribal leaders believe they should be remembered with medals. Allen said 18 Choctaw soldiers were the first to use their language as a `code` to send military messages. While Native Americans didn`t receive U.S. citizenship until 1924, many Choctaws volunteered for service in World War I.