WASHINGTON (AP) - South Dakota's two senators on Wednesday honored Clarence Wolf Guts, one of the last living Lakota "code talkers" who helped confound Japanese troops during World War II by transmitting messages in his native language.
Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and John Thune, R-S.D., presented Wolf Guts, 83, with an honorary quilt on Capitol Hill.
"By their willingness to serve our country, they empowered the allies in World War II with strong communication that was secure and secret from our enemies," Johnson said of the code talkers.
The senators wrapped Wolf Guts in the quilt as Ryan Wilson, the president of the National Indian Education Association, sang a Lakota honor song. Wolf Guts was emotional as he thanked the lawmakers and the crowd.
"In my lifetime, I never thought I'd be standing here, but now that I'm here I'm very happy," he said.
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Thune said at the ceremony that the use of the Lakota language, along with other Indian languages, helped save many lives.
"We are enormously grateful," Thune said.
Wolf Guts testified at a September 2004 hearing on the contributions of code talkers. He said that he used all three of South Dakota's main Indian dialects - Lakota, Dakota and Nakota - in helping the military.
"With my fellow comrades overseas, I was sitting there in the foxhole with a radio, trying to give the orders that were given to us to pass on to the chief-of-staff," he said at the hearing. "You do whatever you can to confuse the enemy. … I am a full-blood Indian, and we do whatever we can to protect the United States because we love America."
Another Lakota code talker, Charles I. Whitepipe, Sr., died last month.