Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

As I sit watching a program about the reservations and the assassination of Chief Sitting Bull this evening I started to ponder about the sacrifices people have made either to their people, their government or this world. For me I think this Memorial Day it would be my honor to remember the Navajo code talkers in WWII.

With several codes already broken by the German's the US needed something that couldn't be broken and keep their service members safe. The Navajo Code Talkers Program was established in September 1942 as the result of a recommendation made the previous February by Mr. Philip Johnston to Major General Clayton P. Vogel, USMC., Commanding General, Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Camp Elliott, California.

Mr. Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajo tribe, was fluent in the language, having lived among the Navajos for 24 years. He believed that use by the Marine Corps of Navajo as a code language in voice (radio and wire) transmission could guarantee communications security.

Mr. Johnston's rationale for this belief was that Navajo is an unwritten language and completely unintelligible to anyone except another Navajo, and that it is a rich fluent language for which code words, in Navajo, could be devised for specialized military terms, such as the Navajo word for "turtle" representing a tank.

Joe Morris Sr was one of over 200 Navajo recruited and served during WWII. He lied about his age and joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17. “At first the Marines didn’t believe that the Navajo code would help,” Morris said. “The Japanese had broken every other code that the Marines tried to use. The Marines started to like us. They said we were saving a lot of lives with our code.”

After the war ended, the Navajo Code Talkers were forgotten and the majority of the general population knew very little about them. In recognition of their dedicated service to America during World War II, the Navajo code talkers were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the President of the United States in December 1981. It was only in July 2001, more than half a century after the end of the war, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who developed the code were given the The Congressional Medal for Meritorious Service in Communications during World War II in Washington, DC. Only 5 of them were still alive. A few months later, the remaining 400 Navajo Code Talkers received the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor in Window Rock, AZ. Unfortunately, most of them did not live to see the recognition.

Please remember all those that have served during our history but please take a moment to remember the courage and ingenuity of the Navajo who helped to save lives of those that fought during WWII.

All information contained can be obtained from the following articles:

Navajo Code Talkers

Code Talkers (Part of the Story)

WWII Windtalker Sets the Story Straight

1 comment:

MQ said...

I am sheepish to admit the first I heard of the Code Talkers was the movie with Nicholas Cage, was it Windtalkers? Anyway, it's nice to see a look at a special group of veterans this Memorial Day.