“Their tale begins in 1942. After discovering that U.S. military codes were routinely deciphered by the Japanese, Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran and son of missionaries to Navajo country, suggested devising a system from the ancient language that few Navajos had ever bothered to write down.
When tests showed that messages that had once taken 30 minutes to code and decode were relayed in 20 seconds by the Navajos, recruitment went into overdrive on the southwestern reservation that ranges across New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.
Some 400 code talkers eventually were assigned to every major Marine division, battalion and parachute unit, usually working in teams ÷ one to speak, the other to write ÷ on bulky portable telephones and radios. Despite their value, many also fought as infantry soldiers; a dozen died in the field….
And the irony? The U.S. government’s efforts to assimilate Navajos in the early 20th century included banning their language. Transgressors had their mouths washed out with soap, or worse.” [USA Today]
This article also includes an interesting sidebar that illustrates how the Navajo code worked. A fascinating subject, and hopefully the movie will be an adequate testament to these men.
Links for further information about the Navajo code:
- Navajo Code Talkers: World War II Fact Sheet
- Navajo Code Talkers’ Dictionary
- The Navajo Code Talkers
- Navajo Code Talker GI Joe Figure
I’ve always been fascinated by their history