Code Talkers

Posted: September 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

During World War I and World War II, hundreds of American Indians joined the United States armed forces and used words from their traditional tribal languages as weapons. Some Code Talkers enlisted, others were drafted. Many of the Code Talkers who served were under age and had to lie about their age to join. Some were just 15 years old. Ultimately, there were Code Talkers from at least 16 tribes who served in the army, the marines, and the navy. The military asked them to develop secret battle communications based on their languages—and America‘s enemies never deciphered the coded messages they sent. ―Code Talkers,‖ as they came to be known after World War II, are twentieth-century American Indian warriors and heroes who significantly aided the victories of the United States and its allies. American Indian Code Talkers were communications specialists. Their job was to send coded messages about troop movements, enemy positions, and other critical information on the battlefield. Some Code Talkers translated messages into their Native languages and relayed them to another tribal member. Others developed a special code within their languages that they used in combat to send important messages.
In World War I, Choctaw and other American Indians transmitted battle messages in their tribal languages by telephone. Although not used extensively, the World War I telephone squads played a key role in helping the United States Army win several battles in France that brought about the end of the war. Beginning in 1940, the army recruited Comanches, Choctaws, Hopis, Cherokees, and others to transmit messages. The army had special American Indian recruiters working to find Comanches in Oklahoma who would enlist. The Marine Corps recruited Navajo Code Talkers in 1941 and 1942. Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran who had heard about the successes of the Choctaw telephone squad, was instrumentals in advancing the use of Code Talkers. Although not Indian, had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was familiar with their language and capabilities. In 1942, he suggested to the Marine Corps that Navajos and other tribes could be very helpful in maintaining communications secrecy. After viewing a demonstration of messages sent in the Navajo language, the Marine Corps was so impressed that they recruited 29 Navajos in two weeks to develop a code within their language. After the Navajo code was developed, the Marine Corps established a Code Talking school. As the war progressed, more than 400 Navajos were eventually recruited as Code Talkers. The training was intense. Following their basic training, the Code Talkers completed extensive training in communications and memorizing the code.
Many Code Talkers earned medals during and after the war, but this was recognition that many servicemen and women received, depending on where they were and what they did in the war. Special recognition for Code Talking did not come for more than 40 years. One reason that Code Talkers were not recognized until much later is because the program was secret and classified by the military. The Navajos were ordered to keep their wartime jobs secret. It wasn‘t until 1968 that the Navajo Code Talkers program was declassified by the military. The military did not order the Comanche Code Talkers to keep silent about their jobs in the war. However, mostly due to security concerns, the program was not discussed outside the Comanche community. After the programs were declassified, people started to realize the importance of the Code Talkers‘ achievements, and recognition finally began to arrive.
In 1989, the French government awarded the Comanche Code Talkers the Chevalier of the National Order of Merit, a very high honor.
In 2000, the United States Congress passed legislation to honor the Navajo Code Talkers and provided them with special gold and silver Congressional Medals. The gold medals were for the original 29 Navajos that developed the code and the silver medals for those that served later in the program. A statement in the Navajo language on the back of the medals translates to: ―With the Navajo language they defeated the enemy.‖
 In 2007, a Congressional bill was introduced to officially recognize all American Indians who served as Code Talkers during the twentieth century.
Beyond Washington, D.C., tribal governments, some state and local governments, and a variety of organizations have acknowledged the importance of the Code Talkers.
[Source: Aug 2010 ++]


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