UPDATE June 4, 2014 Chester Nez, the lat of the original Code Talkers passed this morning at age 93. The passing of an era.
UPDATE Nov 5 2012 A moment of silence for Navajo Code Talker George Smith who deployed to Heaven on Oct. 30 at age 90. He will be missed.
As the election draws near I wanted to take a few moments and honor our local Navajo Code Talkers. Before the article though, if you would like to visit some of the remaining Code Talkers mark these dates and locations down:
October 31st -The Navajo Code Talkers will be selling autographed books and T-shirts at the Quality Inn on Lake Powell Blvd beginning at 3 p.m
November 1st – Navajo Code Talkers will at the Page Lake Powell Chamber of Commerce Vendor’s Fair which coincides with the Balloon Regatta.
It has been a wonderful thing raising children in this area for many reasons, but one thing I look forward to each year is the Veterans Day Celebrations. For many years Big Water School has been lucky enough to have Navajo Code Talkers come and chat with the children about the part they played in the victory of WWII for the United States.
The Navajo Language had only ever been a spoken language with no written component. At the time of World War II it is thought that the language was only understood fully by less than 30 non-Navajo’s. The idea for using the Navajo language in the Marines came from the child of Protestant missionaries, Philip Johnston. Philip, who had grown up as a non-Navajo on the reservation, had learned the language as a child.
The Job of A Navajo Code Talker
From TheNavajo Code Talkers Association
“The Code Talker’s primary job was to talk and transmit information on tactics, troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield information via telegraphs and radios in their native dialect. A major advantage of the code talker system was its speed. The method of using Morse code often took hours where as, the Navajos handled a message in minutes.”
The Department of the Navy has a excellent history and fact sheet on Navajo Code Talkers
Navy WWII Fact Sheet 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.”
“Praise for their skill, speed and accuracy accrued throughout the war. At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” Connor had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. 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.”
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 Government and the public.
Honors for Code Talkers
Because Navajo and the Navajo Code were used long after the war, these 400 code talkers went largely unrecognized for their service in the Marines until 1992, 50 years after the first Navajo’s began training. The Pentagon now has a permanent display of photographs, stories and equipment used by the Code Takers which was dedicated in 1992 at a ceremony 35 of the original Code Talkers attended. Tours of the Pentagon today include a stop and a explanation of the Code Talkers part in winning WWII.
Senator John McCain of Arizona and Navajo President Peterson Zah spoke at the dedication ceremony in 1992.