Monday, September 8, 2014

The Fascinating Story of the Navajo Code Talkers

Today we're finally going to tell you the fascinating story of the Navajo code talkers that we promised last week in our posts on the Navajo language and the use of code talkers during WWI.

As we mentioned last week, a code talker is a person who uses their little-known language to transmit secret messages in wartime. Many Native American language speakers were used as code talkers, but the most famous group was the Navajo code talkers who played a key role in WWII. 

The idea to use Navajo for code talking was first proposed by Philip Johnston, who had learned the language growing up in the Navajo Nation as the son of a missionary. He believed that it could be useful to the military because it was an unwritten language which was not mutually intelligible enough with related languages to be easily deciphered. 

Navajo code talkers in Saipan in 1944
Once a group of Navajo speakers was recruited by the military, it was decided that the easiest way to convey messages using the language would be to create a code by encrypting Navajo using letter and word substitution methods. Training exercises were so successful that the military eventually recruited 200 Navajos, and a codebook was created to help teach the code to new recruits.

Throughout the war, the code talkers played an instrumental role by sending and receiving messages, especially in the Pacific battles, providing essential information to the Allies. They were so successful that Navajo code talkers were also used in the Korean War as well as the Vietnam War. However, the most interesting fact of all about the Navajo code is that it is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered to this day.

If you're interested in learning more about the Navajo code talkers, there are plenty of online resources out there. We recommend taking a look at this website, which provides extensive information on the code talkers, including several fascinating interviews with real-life code talkers who served in World War II.