Essay on the navaho code talkers

Essay on the navaho code talkers

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A peaceable agricultural Native American people related to the Apache, population

about 200,000. They were attacked by Kit Carson and US troops 1864, and were rounded

up and exiled. Their reservation, created 1868, is the largest in the US 65,000 sq km/25,000

sq mi , and is mainly in NE Arizona but extends into NW New Mexico and SE Utah. Many

Navajo now herd sheep and earn an income from tourism, making and selling rugs,

blankets, and silver and turquoise jewelry. Like the Apache, they speak a Southern

Athabaskan language. Navajo speakers served the United States well during WWII. Groups

of young Navajo men were enlisted under a TOP SECRET project to train them as Marine

Corps radiomen. They are officially referred to as the "NAVAJO CODE TALKERS."

Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima the Navajo code talkers took part in every

assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six

Marine divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine parachute units, transmitting

messages by telephone and radio in their native language , a code that the Japanese never

broke. When a Navajo code talker received a message, what he heard was a string of

seemingly unrelated Navajo words. The code talker first had to translate each Navajo word

into its English equivalent. Then he used only the first letter of the English equivalent in

spelling an English word. Thus, the Navajo words "wol-la-chee" (ant), "be-la-sana" (apple)

and "tse-nill" (axe) all stood for the letter "a." One way to say the word "Navy" in Navajo

code would be "tsah (needle) wol-la-chee (ant) ah-keh-di-glini (victor) tsah-ah-dzoh

(yucca)." Most letters had more than one Navajo word representing them. Not all words

had to be spelled out letter by letter. 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," "dah-he- tih-hi"

(hummingbird) meant "fighter plane" and "debeh-li-zine" (black street) meant "squad."

The idea to use Navajo for secure communications came from Philip Johnston, the son

of a missionary to the Na...

... middle of paper ...


Those six sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. The Japanese, who were

skilled code breakers, remained baffled by the Navajo language. The Japanese chief of

intelligence, Lieutenant General Seizo Arisue, said that while they were able to decipher

the codes used by the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps, they never cracked the code used by

the Marines. The Navajo code talkers even stymied a Navajo soldier taken prisoner at

Only about 20 Navajos served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines. The Navajo soldier,

forced to listen to the jumbled words of talker transmissions, said to a code talker after the

war, "I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying." In

1942, there were about 50,000 Navajo tribe members. As of 1945, about 540 Navajos

lkserved as Marines. From 375 to 420 of those trained as code talkers; the rest served in

other capacities. Navajo remained potentially valuable as code even after the war. For that

reason, the code talkers, whose skill and courage saved both American lives and military

engagements, only recently earned recognition from the the public. Government and

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