Thursday, December 10, 2009

Navajo Code Talkers: World War II

The Navajo code talkers played a vital role in every assault the U.S. Marines carried out in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They were used to transmit messages by telephone and radio in their indigenous language, a code that the Japanese never broke. The Navajo language met the military requirement for an undecipherable code, for the reason that Navajo is an unwritten language of tremendous complexity. Its sentence structure and tonal qualities, not to mention vernacular, make it incomprehensible to anyone without widespread exposure and training. This language contains no alphabet or any symbols, and is only spoken on the Navajo territories of the American Southwest. It is estimated that less than 30 non-Navajos, could understand the language during World War II, none of which were Japanese. A test was staged under simulated combat situations to test the Navajos effectiveness. This test revealed that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decipher a three-line English letter in 20 seconds while the machines of the time took half an hour to perform the same function. The Marine Corps was convinced, and it was recommended that the Marines recruit 200 Navajos. After completing their training, Navajos were sent to a Marine unit, stationed in the Pacific. The code talkers' main task was to talk, transmitting information on strategy and troop activities, commands and other imperative combat zone communications over telephones and radios. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, acknowledged, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima." The Japanese were skilled code breakers, they were able to decipher the codes utilized by the U.S. Army and Air Corps, yet they remained baffled by the Navajo language used by the Marines. The Navajo code breakers were recently recognized for their skill and courage, which saved both military engagements and American lives.

Leandro Praseli
Period 5

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