Navajo Code Talkers:
The Unspoken Heroes of World War II
The Unspoken Heroes of World War II
It’s a normal day in June 1944 and we were located on the Pacific Island of Saipan. As were walking through the lush, tangled wilderness with dense sugar-cane, steep ravines and jagged volcanic mountains, there was no such thing as a battle line for us soldiers. Danger was everywhere. The unseen enemy could be hidden by the thick tropical vegetation and the pitch black darkness of the new mooned night. Our eyes where constantly looking from the left to the right as we crossed by the walls of caves looking at the trees sprouting out of them for barrels pointing back. When we would stop for the night, we cherished the passing day, for we know tomorrow could be our last. One morning as we woke up from our uncomfortable beds, the ground, we noticed a silence along the enemy front. Carefully we scouted the terrain. They were gone. The Japanese had abandoned the area and retreated to new ground. As we inspected the area where they once occupied, suddenly artillery shells exploded all around us. I jumped to the ground as shrapnel exploded and flew overhead striking the tree that was behind me. We were being attacked. Not by the Japanese, but from our own guns. The radioman started shouting, “We are Americans! Stop The Artillery!” Nothing stopped, for the artillery commanders faced a known problem. The Japanese were far more fluent in English then we were in Japanese and have been known to send out faulty reports in perfect English. They thought it was just an enemy trick. “Stop Firing! We are Americans!” was echoed through the radio, each one more desperate then the last. Finally, a message was sent back, “Do you have a Navajo?” I was rushed forward, almost swept off my feet. Handing over my rifle to the radioman and started talking code. Within seconds the artillery stopped (Bruchac 2005, 135-7). This was a reenactment of an incident involving the United States marines during World War II. Sixteen-year-old Ned Begay, a Native American Navajo from Arizona, was at this fire fight on Bougainville, an area of Saipan, where U.S. troops fired on their own solders, not knowing that they were not the enemy. If it wasn’t for the Navajo code talker, more men would have died that day. This paper will cover many topics about the Navajo code talkers, including how they were formed, how the code was used to save American lives throughout the war. Finally, I will talk about what happened to the after the war. By providing this information, I how that it will strike a new incite of what the unspoken heroes of World War II went through. During the beginning of World War II, the Japanese was able to break every code that the United States created. The Japanese had more solders that were fluent in English, making it easy to crack the codes and create false orders that would sent our solders to their death. While the U.S. military was struggling with a way to find an unbeatable code, a civilian came up with the answer. Philip Johnston, a civil engineer for the city of Los Angles, came across a news article stating that the military had an armored division in Louisiana that was using Native American languages for secret communications. Philip Johnston, son of William and Margaret Johnston, was a Protestant missionary to the Navajo for many years. Philip had spent his childhood with the Navajo and was one of the few outsiders to be fluent in the Navajo language. At an early age, he served as a translator for his parents and for other outsiders and by the age of nine, Philip traveled to Washington D.C. to translate for a Navajo delegation that asked President Theodore Roosevelt to look into the governments treatment of the Navajos and their neighbors (AAaseng 1992, 18). Philip knew that the Navajo language was virtually impossible for an adult to master. Every syllable in the Navajo language had to pronounce...
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