He is among the Native Americans who played a special role in World War II, serving as the famed Code Talkers. Louis Levi Oakes traveled to Buffalo to visit the Marine Corps League National Convention, which concludes Friday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Oakes was born on the Akwesasne Territory in Upstate New York but lived in Buffalo for about 30 years, where he was employed as an ironworker.
It was also in Buffalo where he enlisted in the Army and, as World War II continued, found himself training to become one of the famed Code Talkers.
"I had been in North Dakota. I went through there when I was in the service," Oakes said. "All the places I traveled."
It was a strategy of the US military to use Native American languages as coded messages. Those languages proved to be the only codes the Axis Powers would not break during the war.
Oakes served in the South Pacific, where he was among the Native Americans who baffled Japanese forces, unable to understand his Mohawk tongue.
"We communicated with some of my buddies at the other end there," Oakes recalled. "One of my cousins there, I was glad to see and talk to him in my own language."
Now 95 years old, Oakes sat in a wheelchair that was guided by his daughter Dora. She told WBFO it was only more recently that her father revealed details of what he did during World War II.
"About the last seven or eight years, he started telling us more of what he went through and what he did," she said. "When he got on the ship to come home, he was standing right where General (Douglas) MacArthur was. There was a lot of people around the world that have been seeing him now and saying wow."
Oakes was awarded a Silver Star for his service. He again lives in the Akwesasne Territory. Oakes visited Buffalo during the Marine Corps League National Convention, which concluded Friday.
Oakes is scheduled to appear later this month at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.