365 days of celebration


National Navajo Code Talkers Day

Posted by Brittany

National Navajo Code Talkers DayWhen the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor there was already a major hurtle in the battle for the Pacific — America was in need of an unbreakable code to deliver classified orders and information. Philip Johnston, who grew up on a Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary, proposed recruiting Navajo to the United States Marine Corps to create a code based on their complex, unwritten language, spoken only in the American Southwest. In spite of the U.S.’s historically deplorable treatment of Native Americans, many Navajo gladly reported for duty. Early tests of the code talkers program proved that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in just 20 seconds; machines created to achieve the same goal took over 30 minutes. In 1942 the first 29 Navajo recruits painstakingly developed the formal Navajo code. As the war progressed and more code talkers were trained, the Marine Corps eventually employed hundreds of Navajo code talkers. Six of these soldiers worked tirelessly around the clock for the first 48 hours of the Battle of Iwo Jim, with Major Howard Connor declaring that “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

Even after the Allied victory in World War II, use of the Navajo code talkers and their unbreakable code was continued. Navajo code talkers were deployed in the Korean War and early Vietnam War before the program was ended. In spite of their efforts and willingness to fight for a country that had attempted to oppress their heritage and language, the code talkers did not receive any recognition for their war efforts until the operation was declassified in 1968. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan awarded the code talkers with a Certificate of Recognition and named August 14th Navajo Code Talkers Day. In 2000 the U.S. Congress passed a statute awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the original 29 WWII Navajo code talkers, and the following year President George W. Bush presented the Medal to the few surviving code talkers, and the families of those no longer living. Each year on August 14th, the Navajo Code Talkers Association commemorates the brave soldiers who protected our country’s secrets with their language and their lives. This year’s celebration started with the raising of the flags at the Navajo Veterans Park in Window Rock, Arizona, followed by a parade and commemoration ceremony.

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