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Navajo Code Talkers


Douglas County News Press
August 30, 2018

August 14 is National Code Talkers Day. This event recognizes the Navajo men who joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II as communication specialists and developed an unbreakable code using their native language.

On August 14, 2018, ten members of the Douglas County Young Marines attended National Navajo Code Talkers Day. More than 100 Young Marines from across the country traveled to Wind Rock, Arizona, for the annual event. For 3 days the Young Marines took part in community service activities: cleaning and weeding the Navajo Nation Zoo, and cleaning graffiti off the red rocks on Window Rock peak. On National Code Talkers Day, the Young Marines escorted the Navajo veterans, marched in the parade, and performed a wreath laying ceremony. The Young Marines are asked to share their experience with their history classes.

During World War II, Japan’s code breakers were the finest in the world. They were able to break every code that was created. They were able to sabotage messages and issue false commands in order to ambush Allied troops. They often sent out false commends in English to set traps and disrupt entire battle plans of the Allies.

World War I veteran Philip Johnston suggested that the U.S. military develop a code based on the Navajo language which was unwritten. In 1942, 29 Navajos ranging in age from 15 to 35, created the first code based on their language. It started with a vocabulary of 200 terms but tripled in quantity by the time World War II ended. The Navajo soldiers were not allowed to write anything down. Everything was memorized. The Navajo Code Talkers could pass messages in as little as 20 seconds. By 1945, 420 Navajos served as code talkers.

During the first two days of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the code talkers transmitted 800 messages with no mistakes. The Navajo soldiers’ unbreakable code saved thousands of lives and helped to end WWII. Upon their return home the Navajo marine veterans were ordered not to reveal their mission as Navajo code talkers. Their contributions were kept secret for centuries.

The code talkers were first nationally recognized in 1969 when they were invited to attend a reunion of the 4th Marine Division Association. The code talkers were presented with a medallion specially minted in commemoration of their services. In recognition of their dedicated service during WWII, the Navajo code talkers were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the President of the United States in December 1971.

In July, 1982, some 37 years after the Japanese surrender, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation that read (in part): “Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate August 14, 1882, as National Navajo Code Talker Day, a day dedicated to all members of the Navajo Nation and to all Native Americans who gave their special talents and their lives so that other might live. I ask the American people to join me in this tribute, and I call upon federal, state and local officials to commemorate this day with appropriate activities.”
The brave soldiers’ contributions became better known with the release of the 2002 movie, “Windtalkers”. It exposed the public to World War II’s Native American heroes.

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