Navajo Code Talker

358 Words2 Pages
At the beginning of WWII, Japanese intelligence broke every code the US forces came up with. They were able to anticipate American actions at an alarming rate. With hundreds of English speakers at their disposal, they intercepted messages and issued false commands to ambush Allied troops. To counter this, complex codes were used. Military leaders finally complained that sending and receiving these codes required hours of encryption and decryption—up to two and a half hours for a single message. They rightly argued the military needed a better way to communicate. When Phillip Johnston, a citizen living in California learned of the crisis, he had the answer. Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was one of less than 30 outsiders fluent in the language. He realized that since it had no alphabet and was almost impossible to master without early exposure, the Navajo language had potential as an indecipherable code. After an demonstration to top commanders, he was told to begin a Navajo Code Talker test program. The unit was formed in 1942 when the first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were recruited by Johnston. Although the code was modified throughout the war, this first group was the one to start it. They are often referred to reverently as the "original 29". Many of these enlistees were just boys; most had never been away from home before. Often lacking birth certificates, it was impossible to verify ages. After the war it was discovered that recruits as young as 15 and as old as 35 had enlisted. Age notwithstanding, they easily bore the rigors of basic training, thanks to their upbringing in the southwestern desert. After the war, the Navajo Code Talkers returned home as heroes without a heroes' welcome. Their code had been so successful, it was considered a military secret too important to reveal. They remained silent heroes until more than two decades
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