Navajo Code Talkers

The Navajo language is incredibly complex, with syntax, tonal qualities and dialects that render it unintelligible to outsiders. A spoken language, it has no alphabet or symbols, and is used only in remote Navajo areas of the American Southwest.  For these reasons, it was selected as a code language during World War II by the U.S. Marines.

In 1942, Japanese translators and codebreakers were regularly intercepting U.S. military communications and sabotaging U.S. plans in the Pacific.  Philip Johnston, a white man who was raised on the Navajo Reservation, convinced Major General Clayton Vogel, commanding general of the Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, that the Marines should recruit Navajos to transmit important military communications.

From the Naval Historical Center:

"In May 1942, the first 29 Navajo recruits attended boot camp. Then, at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California, this first group created the Navajo code. They developed a dictionary and numerous words for military terms. The dictionary and all code words had to be memorized during training.

...The developers of the original code assigned Navajo words to represent about 450 frequently used military terms that did not exist in the Navajo language. Several examples: 'besh- lo' (iron fish) meant 'submarine,' and 'dah-he- tih-hi' (hummingbird) meant 'fighter plane'...

Once a Navajo code talker completed his training, he was sent to a Marine unit deployed in the Pacific theater. The code talkers' primary job was to talk, transmitting information on tactics and troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield communications over telephones and radios...Praise for their skill, speed and accuracy accrued throughout the war. At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, 'Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.'"

For decades after the war, the contributions of the Navajo code talkers were not publicly acknowledged, because of the continued value of their language as a secure code. The code talkers were finally honored at the Pentagon in 1992, and the Navajo code talker exhibit is now a regular stop on the Pentagon tour.

Of the approximately 400 Navajos who trained as code talkers, only about 50 are still alive, most of them living in the Navajo Nation that includes part of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.  Today, for the first time, a group of 13 code talkers will take part in the Veterans Day parade in New York City.

AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca of Navajo code talker Keith Little, 85, at a book signing in Albuquerque, N.M.

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I was (wireless) radioman in a Mountain Infantry Unit in the Swiss Army (1957to1999), Batt.43/I. In my Unit we also used a secret code system for the different stations, places and terms. My name was "Lighthouse" (because I'm tall), and a second "DeGaulle". We had previeved this for occasions when our normal net was broken, and this was the case in a verry big trouble in the Big Manouvers (the Swiss Army was not really involved in real wars). I was choised because I know a fiew linguages, my "Second" spoke German and French.
We had a verry interresting time. I still have a orig.
ENIGMA cipher machine.
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Once the Japanese knew the language was being used, they would have deployed translators to intercept the transmissions. If we used a polish code, they would have had men in the field who could speak polish. The Navajos were effective because the Japanese COULD NOT FIND someone who could speak the language.
On a side note, Windtalkers is a pretty decent movie that deals with the code talkers.
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I want to honor ALL American veterans, both living and dead for there loyal service to our country. I deeply appreciate all of the sacrifices they have made in the lives to keep our country free. Please listen to my original song "Remember America" and pass this along to honor our Gladiators!!!
Thank You,
Victoria Blackie
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Weren't code talkers used in close combat situations and not for transmitting strategic information ? You really think that the average Japanese soldier on say Iwo Jima was walking around with a Japanese/Italian dictionary and even had the time to open it up and decode information as the battle raged ? I'm guessing not many Japanese units on Okinawa had Polish translators either. Come on.
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