Navajo Code Talkers

It’s a Battle Out There

Navajo Code TalkersAmerica unofficially became involved in World War II when the Japanese signaled their imperial march by attacking American military bases in Guam, the Philippines, and Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Meanwhile, France succumbed to the Nazi blitzkrieg invasion, and Britain weathered Hitler’s nightly bombing campaign. EA Secure File Share

America’s Challenge with Japanese Code-Breakers

Navajo Code TalkersAmerica struggled with military supremacy in the Pacific because the Japanese effortlessly decrypted America’s encrypted military instructions. Well-versed with American cultural references, Japanese code-breakers out-smarted America’s continual attempts to devise and implement new codes for government secure document transfers.

U. S. Armed Forces’ commanders and cryptographers were faced with finding a Japanese-proof code because they failed to take into account just how exceptional America’s education system was and its unforeseen benefits. Japanese code-breakers deciphered top-secret military codes almost as fast as military commanders could formulate new codes – their American education and cultural immersion permitted them to pick up on subtle nuance and double meanings.

World War 1 Vet, Philip Johnston, Introduces Navajo as Secret Language

Navajo Code TalkersAfter reading a local newspaper article, Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran, became passionate about America’s need for an unbreakable code to defeat imperial Japan. Johnston remembered his days on Navajo Indian Reservations and their undiscovered language. He wondered if the Navajo language would give America’s armed forces an unbreakable code against the Japanese to help with document transfers.

Wanting to prove the Navajo language viability, Johnston convinced the military staff to test the applicability of Navajo native speakers to transmit battle plans in code – secretly, accurately, and quickly. Johnston recruited four native Navajo speakers and asked officials at Camp Elliott to test them on code transmission.

The four Navajo speakers were split into teams of two, placed in separate rooms, and asked to transmit a piece of an attack order. Translated from English into Navajo, from Navajo team to Navajo team, and back to English, military officials were blown away by the speed, accuracy, and security of the transmission.

This demonstration was so effective that Johnston, along with Major Vogel of Camp Elliot, dispatched an urgent letter to federal officials in Washington, D.C., advocating the program’s potential and need for expansion. Major Vogel asked permission to recruit and train 200 Navajo native speakers to help transmit military code in the Pacific theater. After waiting months for approval, federal officials permitted a training program for 30 more Navajo speakers.

Marines Recruit Navajos to Create Unbreakable Military Language

Navajo Code TalkersLess than six months later, the U. S. Marines approached Navajos living on federal Indian reservations to find the ideal code creators. Along with native fluency in English and Navajo, physical fitness was required by the U. S. military. Interested in specialized roles and world travel, many interested Navajo speakers stretched the truth about their age, especially when exact records of Navajo natives’ births and deaths were not meticulously kept.

After Navajo recruits from “The Navajo School,” transitioned into military life, their time at Camp Pendleton created an unbreakable military language. Navajo soldiers created a dual-layer military language to make it un-breakable and enable secure document transfers. The first layer featured over 200 Navajo words that corresponded to their American words. Its second layer consisted of a group of spoken-only characters that borrowed names for birds, animals, and vegetables in Navajo.

Navajo linguists created a language that was secure because of its exclusivity within the U.S. Armed Forces who were Navajo/English speakers, but impenetrable to the highest skilled Japanese code breakers.  Navajo code talkers’ craft was not completely understood by America’s military officers, but battlefield performance exceeded and removed any doubt.

Camp Pendleton eventually became America’s Navajo code talker training headquarters. Johnston had dedicated his time and service to America once again as Staff Sergeant running America’s WWII Navajo code talker program. Less than two years after Japan’s strike on Pearl Harbor, almost 200 code talkers were proficient in Navajo encoding and aiding with secure file transfers.

Navajo Code Talkers Reign in the Pacific

Navajo Code TalkersNavajo code talkers soon supported all six Marine Pacific divisions, working hand-in-hand with parachuting and Marine Raider units. They supported American attacks on Japanese strongholds in the Marianas, Solomon Islands, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima. America’s successful capture of Iwo Jima was only possible with nearly 1000 Navajo encoded error-free communications, enabling government document transfers.

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki sustained atomic bombs in August of 1945, Navajo code talkers were the first to hear of Japan’s surrender.

In 1971, President Nixon honored Navajo code talkers for their bravery and selflessness because their language gave America’s military secrecy the advantage that let thousands of men return home from the front lines.

It was only after Japanese military officials realized American military code during World War II was based on the Navajo language that they admitted they could never have cracked America’s secret code.

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