Private First Class Joseph Oklahombi, a member of the Choctaw Nation, was born on 1 May 1895 at Bokchito, Indian Territory in now McCurtain County, Oklahoma. On 6 April 1917, the United States declared war against Germany. Oklahombi registered for the draft in 1917 and enlisted in the Army in 1918. While training at Camp Bowie, Texas, he was assigned to D Company, 141st Infantry, 36th Division. The 141st arrived in France in August 1918.
In the unit’s first day of combat, 8 October 1918, D Company began its attack and almost immediately every soldier was a casualty, except one officer, Oklahombi, and 23 other enlisted who continued attacking the enemy. Afterwards, the detachment’s commander, Lieutenant Ford, recommended that each be awarded the nation’s second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. He wrote in part: “The men jumped off under fire of more than 25 machine guns…then rushed the machine gun nests…capturing 171 prisoners. They turned the enemy’s own guns on them and held out for four days...under a constant barrage of high explosives and gas shells. Their discipline was of the best.”
The same valor award recommendation was submitted for French decorations, and on 22 March 1919, Oklahombi was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star. Since Lieutenant Ford was killed days after their four-day battle, the American award that Oklahombi and the others received was the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
Oklahombi returned home to his wife and son and led a quiet life of farming, hunting, and fishing. In 2008, the World War I & II Choctaw Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and in 2012 they were inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. Oklahombi was one of the original Choctaw Code Talkers. Joseph Oklahombi died tragically on 13 April 1960 and is buried in Yashau Cemetery, Broken Bow, Oklahoma.