Code Talkers of WWII – The Navajo and More

Code Talkers of WWII – The Navajo and More

The Navajo code talkers have been made famous in books and movies. Being a code talker during the Second World War was a dangerous and, for the longest time, a thankless job.

The Navajo were recognized – finally – in 2001, for their contribution.   However, it wasn’t until 2008 that the other tribes who contributed were also recognized.   The code talkers were instrumental to the war effort so this recognition was long overdue.

According to the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, signed by President George W. Bush, there were representatives from 22 tribal nations in the code talker project.  Each tribal code talker spoke in their native language to help send and receive coded messages.

First Use

World War One was the first time the Native American language was used by the military to send and receive encoded messages.

The first reported use of Native American Code Talkers were Choctaw speakers on October 17, 1918.  The Choctaw and Cherokee were instrumental in Europe to help turn the tide of war.

The next record of Native Americans speaking code for a military effort is of the Comanche in World War 2.

In the beginning, the Army recruited 50 Native American speakers for special language assignments for the war in Europe. The Marines, in turn, recruited several hundred Navajo for duty in the Pacific arena.  The code was never broken, despite the Japanese capturing a Navajo soldier and torturing him to try and break the code.

Attempts to break the code

German dictator Adolf Hitler was quite aware of the Choctaw efforts during the First World War.   When Germany started its policy of aggression, he attempted to send spies to Native American reservations to learn the languages.

However, most languages are so complex and difficult that they are impossible to pass off as a person’s native tongue to a native speaker. Hitler’s spies were unsuccessful. Even if they had been successful in learning the language, though, they still would most likely have been unable to break the code.

Many tribes provided Code Talkers.

Many tribal nations provided code talkers as part of the war effort. The CTRA specifically recognized and honored these tribes;

Assiniboine, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chippewa/Oneida, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Crow, Hopi, Kiowa, Menominee, Meskwaki, Mississauga, Muscogee, Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, Seminole and various Sioux nations.

Native Americans were abused, neglected, and actively exterminated by the United States.  This perpetuated throughout the history of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. The abuses have not ended to this day; nevertheless, Native men and women can be counted on to fight and die in the US military.

Every one of them deserves honor and recognition for their service and their sacrifice.

By Susan Curry for Native Daily Network

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