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American Legion Unit 323: Texts, tweets or talks

By Submitted by Pat Whitehall - | Sep 2, 2020

Today’s youth feel so important because they are able to text, tweet or talk in a special language not understood by their parents. Here at the American Legion, we know this is something which has been around for many years and we celebrate those who were using secret codes to help win wars. I am referring to the Navajo Code Talkers and we celebrated their memory on Aug. 14.

During World War I, the Choctaw people were transmitting in code by phone and it helped the Army win several important battles in France. The Code Talkers had proved their essential value in World War I and the Army bestowed honors on many of them. In 1940, the Army again recruited Choctaws, Hopis and Cherokees and were using special recruiters to find Comanches in Oklahoma who would enlist.

In 1941, a World War I veteran, Philip Johnston, while not an Indian but had grown up on a Navajo reservation, suggested to the Marine Corps the recruiting of Navajos. The Corps reviewed demos of messages sent in Navajo language and were so impressed they recruited 29 of them in just two weeks to develop a code within their language. After the code was developed, a Code Talking school was established. The men had to have their basic training, and once that was finished, had extensive training in communications and memorizing the established codes. Some of the Code Talkers had enlisted, others were drafted, but many of them were underage and lying so they could join. Ultimately, there were 16 tribes who served in the Army, Marines and Navy.

Code Talkers used everyday tribal language to convey messages. They developed special words for the World War II military terms by looking at picture charts showing different items and after viewing them, came up with words which seemed to fit the pictures. Code Talkers did more than just speak. They had to know how to operate wire and radio equipment and it all had to be carried on their back. That equipment weighed a lot more than any smart phone. They also had to be able to set up and maintain electronic communications wires or lines. There was no Verizon to assist them if the lines went down.

The Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental to many U.S. victories during the war. And they were especially necessary to the U.S. Marine assault in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. The Navajo Code Talkers were treated with the utmost respect by the Marines and are credited with the success of the Marine capture of Iwo Jima.

Four of the last nine Code Talkers passed away in 2019. We at the American Legion Auxiliary salute those brave patriots and their outstanding accomplishments!

The code remains unbroken to this day.