WASHINGTON D.C. (WTAQ) - Three Wisconsin Indian tribes were among 33 honored at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, for helping save countless American lives during World War II.
Congressional Gold Medals were awarded to recognize "code talkers" -- Indians who used their native languages to send messages that the enemy could never understand.
The Ho-Chunk Nation had seven code talkers during the war. The Menominee had five, and the Oneida had four. None of those soldiers lived long enough to see their secret contributions recognized.
House Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse co-sponsored a bill in 2008 to create the medals for the native soldiers. He said the famous battle of Iwo Jima would have been much longer and far bloodier, had it not been for the code talkers who could send messages in seconds.
If it wasn't for them, the troops might have needed a coding machine that would have sent messages in a half-hour.
Kind said the Indians sent out 800 battlefield communications with perfect accuracy at Iwo Jima -- and the enemy was none the wiser.
Congressional leaders John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were also among those honoring the Indians with the medals. Menominee chairman Craig Corn called the ceremony "outstanding."