Saturday, Oct 22, 2005
There will be a brief ceremony honoring WWII Veteran Native American Code Talkers on Monday, October 24 from 4:00 - 4:30pm at the Flag Circle & Court of Honor in American Memorial Park. The ceremony will include a wreath laying, a Proclamation by the Governor, and presentation of medallions and certificates for the veterans. The public is invited to attend.
Later in the evening, The Code Talkers and their traveling companions will have a short question and answer session with the public as they tour the American Memorial Park Visitors Center and World War II Exhibit Hall at 7:30 - 8:30pm. The public is invited to meet, greet and ask questions at the Visitors Center auditorium.
Navajo Code Talkers: A Brief History
The story of Native Americans' service as combat communicators began during the First World War, when Native-American people (notably Choctaw) first transmitted messages in their native language for the U.S. Army in Northern France. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. faced war with Japan across the broad Pacific and the need for an unbreakable code again became urgent. In 1942, a WWI veteran and Navajo speaker Philip Johnston proposed to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) the idea of a code within the Navajo language. After preliminary testing, USMC set out to develop the Navajo Code by recruiting intelligent and capable Navajo men for this secret mission. At Camp Elliott in San Diego, CA, the first 29 Navajo recruits developed a code that would later be called the easiest in the world to use and the hardest in the world to crack. The code works like this: one or more Navajo words were assigned to all 26 letters of the English alphabet. Messages could then be spelled out letter-by-letter using the Navajo words. Additionally, frequently used words were assigned code words, such as the Navajo word for "eggs" meaning "bombs". For code talkers using field radios, messages could be encoded and decoded quickly because the codes were similar to ordinary conversation. For this reason, the code was an instantaneous way to transmit top-secret messages. Many U.S. generals accustomed to slower cryptography methods were astounded, while the Japanese were completely stymied by the code. At Iwo Jima, the Japanese resorted to banging pots and pans or shouting in an attempt to interfere with Navajo Code transmissions they would intercept. The Code Talkers were reliable, accurate, and fast amid the chaos of war. The code they developed is the only oral combat code that was never broken.