The Pawnee Code Talkers of World War II were awarded the highest civilian award bestowed by the Congress of the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal, on 15 October 2008 when President George W. Bush signed into law the Code Talker Recognition Act of 2008. The medal was presented to the Pawnee Nation on 20 November 2013 at Emancipation Hall in Washington D.C. It is awarded to persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” Only 158 Gold Medals have been awarded since the first Gold Medal was awarded on 25 March 1776 to General George Washington. The Pawnee Code Talkers were the 140th recipient of the Gold Medal.
The Pawnee Code Talkers transmitted, received, and encrypted sensitive tactical messages in their native Pawnee language, which the German and Japanese Armies did not understand, over military telephone and radio communications during the Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns, as well as the New Guinea campaign in the Pacific. As a result of their front-line use of their native language, hundreds of lives of Allied Soldiers were saved.
Seven of the nine Pawnee Code Talkers served with the 157th, 179th, and 180th Infantry Regiments of Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Division in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater of Operations during World War II. They include: Staff Sergeant Frank Davis (1920–1998); Sergeant Brummett Echohawk (1922-2006); Sergeant Grant Gover (1913-1944, KIA); Staff Sergeant Phillip Gover (1906-1992); Staff SergeantChauncey F. Matlock (1908-1986); Sergeant Harold W. Morgan (1921-1992); and Master Sergeant Floyd E. Rice (1912-1956).
SGT Grant Gover was killed in action on 1 November 1944 during the Rhineland Campaign. The remaining 6 Code Talkers were all wounded in action, (SGT Echohawk 3 times, and SSGT Matlock twice). The 45th Infantry Division fought in 8 campaigns: Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Southern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. These seven Pawnee Code Talkers were awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Technician 5th Grade Henry C. Stoneroad Sr. (1920-2010) and Sergeant Enoch Jim (1911-1984) served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater during World War II. T/5 Stoneroad Sr. served with Recon Troop, 112th Regimental Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and SGT Jim served with the 33rd Infantry Division. T/5 Stoneroad Sr. was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Service Stars for the New Guinea, Bismarck-Archipelago, Leyte (w/ Arrowhead) and Luzon campaigns. SGT Jim was wounded in action and also awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Service Stars for the New Guinea and Luzon campaigns.
All the Pawnee Code Talkers are deceased; T/5 Stoneroad Sr. was the last living Pawnee Code Talker. He was 89 years old at the time of his death in 2010.