MR. PETER MACDONALD
During World War II, coded radio transmission was the fastest way to deliver commands to units overseas. Cryptographers on both sides became adept at intercepting and decoding their opponents’ transmissions. In 1942, the Marine Corps found a new way to keep their communications secure with the Navajo Code Talkers.
Marines from the Navajo tribe began to send secure voice transmissions based on their native language. Since only a small group of Americans spoke Navajo, it was impossible for the enemy to gain intelligence from any intercepted messages. Additionally, the Navajo Code Talkers proved faster and more accurate than Morse Code or any machine.
The unique Navajo language gave the Marines a strategic advantage during the Battle of Iwo Jima and countless other World War II battles. The program was highly classified for 25 years and, to this day, there’s no indication any intercepted Navajo code was successfully deciphered.
Source: Marines.com,. ‘1942: Navajo Code Talkers’.
It is estimated that between 375 to 420 Navajos served as code talkers. The Navajo code talker program was highly classified throughout the war and remained so until 1968. Returning home on buses without parades or fanfare and sworn to secrecy about the existence of the code, the Navajo code talkers are only recently making their way into popular culture and mainstream American history. The “Honoring the Code Talkers Act,” introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico in April 2000, and signed into law December 21, 2000, called for the recognition of the Navajo code talkers. During a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on July 26, 2001, the first 29 soldiers received the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Silver Medal was presented to the remaining Navajos who later qualified to be code talkers. Senator Bingaman’s legislation was one attempt to answer the question of how the United States should document and remember the Navajo code talkers.