You find a way to solve an unsolvable problem. Your work saves lives and impacts the course of a war. Now imagine never speaking about it. Over 400 Navajos, who fought during World War II, found themselves in this unique position. We honor them on August 14, Navajo Code Talkers Day.
They were a mix of draftees and volunteers. Many were underage and lied their way into service. None of them anticipated the missions that would mark their place in history. What started as a 1942 experiment, at San Diego’s Camp Elliott, helped secure our troops over the next three very hard years.
War strategies require coded communication. Enemies do all they can to unlock the opposition’s messages. We thought our Enigma cipher machines gave us a tactical advantage during the second world war. They didn’t always work.
This seemingly unsolvable problem was solved with a simpler form of radio communication. Combining word and letter substitutions, Navajo Code Talkers converted their unwritten native language into a cipher. Their resulting code was never broken by the enemy.
During the battle of Iwo Jima, the Code Talkers dug in behind front lines and supported troops with more than 800 secret messages over five weeks. It was all highly classified.
They never spoke of it. The folks back home didn’t know about it. It became a part of the Code Talkers’ code of silence. We only came to understand their almost lost chapter of history in 1968 when their work was finally declassified.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan designated August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the original 29 Code Talkers.
With admiration and appreciation, we take time today to celebrate the Navajo Code Talkers. We proudly salute the courage of men who kept their code of silence so well for so long.