Navajo Code Talkers of World War II

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 187
  • Published : May 7, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
Navajo Code Talkers of World War II
The Japanese military of World War II was relentless. Strategies, locations, and plans were often intercepted through open radio channels between the Allied forces and the Japanese commanders. As a result, the United States and the Allied forces developed a secret way of communicating in code words, so that Japanese and Axis powers could not understand the radio messages that they intercepted. The Axis did the same. However, the Japanese were remarkable at intercepting commands from radios and translating the English that came to them. Also, they were extraordinarily talented in deciphering American code words. Thousands of American lives were being lost a day as a result of Japanese cracking the American codes. Because of this, Philip Johnston proposed using the Native American Navajo language as a code during the Pacific theatre of the war. At a time when the Japanese possessed the ability to break almost any American military code, the Navajo stepped forward and developed the most significant and successful military code of the time.  On December 7th, 1941, Japan declared war on the United States and initiated a foreign air attack on American-protected soil. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with no warning, killing hundreds of soldiers and civilians and pulverizing the American Navy. A day later on December 8th, The United States responded by declared war on Japan. The Pacific battle largely involved huge Navy ships called aircraft carriers and dogfights in the damp gray sky. Regularly, orders and information were sent out from plane to plane, from ship to ship, and officer to officer on radio. The radios were not encrypted or encoded like the secure-broadcasting we have today. All that a Japanese or American officer had to do to listen to his enemy was dial into the same radio channel. Some officer’s primary assignments were to listen in on enemy conversation. They translated the intercepted Japanese message and reported the information to their captain or commanding officer. Often, entire “arrangements of enemy troops, airplanes, ships, and submarines could be discovered” through this means of spying on the opponent (Christensen 2012).  Conversely, the same possibility for the Japanese was present. They could just as easily obtain delicate information about the United States military, especially the position of ships and planes in the navy. Soon after the Japanese realized what was happening, they developed a way to counter the radio-intercepting intelligence work. They developed complex codes and code words to speak over the radio so that United States and Allied forces could not understand what they were saying. While the Japanese code words supplied an advantage to the Japanese, the Americans soon counteracted with their own set of randomly picked code words. There was no reason why “DUCKPIN identified General Eisenhower, nor why ZOOTSUIT referred to Auk, New Britain, or why OPIUM was the transfer of a Marine regiment to Samoa” (Bruchac 2005).  However, the Japanese found it relatively simple to decipher American codes. Some experts speculate that Japanese radio-interceptor officers had an easy time cracking code words, because American officers would discuss the codes over the radio and could easily be recognized. Others speculate that Japan had spies inside the navy and the rest of the military to gather intelligence and information. The United States military realized their codes had been broken or leaked soon after they had developed the code. The American navy had planned an ambush on the Kamandorski Islands, a small chain of Japanese held islands. When the “six naval battleships arrived on the supposed lightly-protected” islands, eight massive Japanese battleships” countered them (Lily 2001). Two Americans ships were heavily damaged, “The Salt Lake City and the Bailey, and more than 3,000” American officers were killed. After the Japanese had apparently cracked...
tracking img