Today is Memorial Day, the day out of each year that United States citizens take a pause and remember all the lives sacrificed for their country. Today is also a great day to learn some interesting bits of long-forgotten history about deaf citizens!
Did you know that the US Civil War was the last recorded war to have many deaf soldiers serving, the majority of whom were fighting for the Union? Half of the deaf soldiers became deaf during the war from all the explosions and noise around them, and they kept on fighting. The other half were deaf before the war who enlisted to fight for their country.
There was even a deaf reporter, Laura Redden Searing (she wrote under the name Howard Glyndon,) who covered the Civil War and befriended then President Abraham Lincoln!
After the Civil War was done, the government placed a ban preventing deaf individuals from joining the military for any future wars.
Then World War I happened. Nearly every able-bodied man was enlisted to fight, leaving the deaf behind. World War II was the same situation.
However, this didn’t stop the deaf citizens from serving their country; they took up work in the factories, manufacturing weapons, equipment, and supplies and then shipping them to the front lines.
The children of Deaf adults, CODAs, served as code speakers during WW1 & WW2, using ASL to relay sensitive information. Snipers also used signs to communicate with their teams. At the time, sign language was not widely understood.
Today, it’s become one of the most widely used languages in the United States.
And here’s a bonus fact: currently, there is only one country in the world that trains and employs deaf soldiers: Israel.
IDF enables diabetes victims and deaf to be drafted – The Jerusalem Post
Sweet Bells Jangled – Gallaudet University Press
The Untold Stories of Deaf People in WW1 – BBC.com