Navajo Code Talkers

Topics: United States Marine Corps, Code talker, World War II Pages: 5 (1837 words) Published: March 6, 2012
Navajo Code Talkers
National security of every country highly depends on secrecy maintainance, especially during wartime. Secrecy is an important element of victory. However, it is important not only to code messages but also to break enemy codes in order to gain military advantages. During the Second World War it was very important for the United States to send and receive codes without any risk of being deciphered. For this reason the language of American indigenous population of the Navajo was chosen by the U.S. Marine Corps. This paper focuses on contributions made by the Navajo Code Talkers during the Second World War. The military enemies of the United States did not manage to break the code. One of the reasons why the Navajo language was chosen was that it appeared to be not a written language and was of no interest either for the Germans or for the Japanese. During the Second World War there were several prerequisites for the use of the Navajo language as the code. First of all, there were groups of English-speaking soldiers in Japan that were used by the Japanese military to track military radio messages by the United States (Jevec and Potter 2001, 263). The Japanese were eager to learn details about the American military, defenses, and troop dislocation. Secondly, the United States had to develop codes to make them more difficult in order to prevent secret information from decoding. However, codes were deciphered by enemies and needed improvement. As a result, some codes became overcomplicated and required hours for translation (Kawano 1990, 34). If a message contained some urgent information, the military just could not react in time. Therefore, the American military was searching for the code which could be both simple and unbreakable. The person who presented the idea of using the Navajo language as the code language was Philip Johnston (Santella 2004, 65). Johnston was not a Navajo himself, but he was a son of a missionary and grew up in the Navajo Reservation. There he managed to learn the language and became familiar with the people. Moreover, Johnston had military experience and was a veteran of the First World War. Thus, he knew the military desire to develop an unbreakable code. In February 1942, Johnston proposed a plan to use the Navajo language for encoded radio transmissions (Santella 2004, 66). According to his explanations, the Navajos spoke their language differently from any other Indians. Moreover, only a few anthropologists studied the language. Even Germans who visited Indian communities in the 1930s paid no attention to the Navajo language. Additionally, logic of the language was difficult enough. Each syllable of the language carries its own meaning. In order to avoid misunderstanding, each syllable should be pronounced correctly. Also, the speaker should mind the tone of the voice to be correctly understood. The meaning of the whole sentence can be altered in case of the slightest mistake either in tone or pronunciation. As a result, there were enough rational reasons to employ the Navajo language as a safe tool for coding secret messages. In order to improve the code, Johnston proposed to use not the Navajo language itself, but a code based on the language. In 1942, the population of the Navajos was estimated to be over 50,000 (Townsend 2000, 145). Thus, the U.S. Marines Corps believed there were enough Navajos to recruit. Initially, recruited Native Americans did not know that they were going to become Code Talkers. This information was unveiled to them only after they had proven the ability to speak and write English perfectly and had gone through boot camp. The initial group of recruits consisted of 29 Navajos, and all of them passed primary tests. After the camp, the recruits were deployed to Camp Elliott, California. They improved their knowledge of radio communications and electronics there (Kawano 1990, 73). They had trainings in message transmission, pole claiming, and...
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