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Tag: Pacific Fleet

Unbreakable: Remembering the Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, 12/1943 (ARC 593415)

Keith Hill passed away yesterday at the age of 87. He was  president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and Congressional Silver Medal recipient. At 17, he joined the Navajo Code Talkers, a group of men who used their Native American language to communicate and coordinate the movements of Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Hill started with the U .S. Marine Corps in December of 1943, and he fought at the Marshall Islands, Sai Pan, and Iwo Jima. Over 400 over Navajo Code Talkers also served.

Encryption could be a complicated and time-consuming task. A quicker and more secure means was needed.

Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary, had presented the idea of Navajo speakers to the Marines. He was a World War I vet who knew that the military was looking for a quick and secure way to send messages. Using speakers of a language that few outsiders ever heard—and that fewer than 30 outsiders spoke—seemed like a plausible solution.

Why Navajos? There were very, very few speakers of the Navajo language outside the tribe, with exception of a limited number of scholars and missionaries (Johnston estimated 28 people), so it was unlikely anyone else would recognize the langauge and be able to translate it. Even among other Indian tribals, the language was considered different.… [ Read all ]