the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

14
August

National Navajo Code Talkers Day

Posted by Brittany

To honor National Navajo Code Talkers Day, Chris and I decided to learn more about the history of the code talkers and their contributions to the U.S. military. Both of us were aware of the code’s existence but knew very little about the code talkers’ operation or its integral part in the successful campaign for the Pacific Theater. Turning to our Netflix queue once again, we watched a History Channel special entitled In Search of History: Navajo Code Talkers. The program offered a brief, but interesting history of the U.S.’s dismal treatment of the Navajo people, and the government’s attempts to force assimilation of Navajo children by stripping them of the very language that later helped win victory in Iwo Jima. Before long, the special began to detail the development of the Navajo code for military purposes, emphasizing its complex nature and describing the thought put into developing the now-declassified code. It was interesting to hear about how the Navajo invented words for objects that weren’t part of their heritage’s lexicon: grenades became “potatoes” and submarines became “iron fish”. But what really struck me, far more than the complexity of the finely developed code, were the interviews with surviving Navajo code talker Marines: each of them was so proud to have served their country, even while acknowledging the horrors of war and the unfair treatment they received (while other soldiers were promoted quickly during times of war, the Navajo code talkers returned home without recognition or rank). And yet, without these brave and loyal few, it is undoubted that America would have lost thousands upon thousands of more soldiers to the battles of the 20th Century. With their contributions and patriotism in mind, and the numbers of remaining code talkers dwindling, the motto of the Navajo Code Talkers Association rings true: “Only a few remain. Let’s preserve the best stories never told.”

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