The War Within
“Never think that war is a good thing, grandchildren.
Though it may be necessary at times to defend our people,
war is a sickness that must be cured. War is a time out of balance.
When it is truly over, we must work to restore peace and sacred harmony once again.”
– Joseph Bruchac, “Code Talker”
– Maîtres du moment
History: “Navajo Code Talkers”
Long unrecognized because of the continued value of their language as a security classified code, the Navajo code talkers of World War II. In United States history, the story of Native Americans is predominantly tragic. Settlers took their land, misunderstood their customs, and killed them in the thousands. Then, during World War II, the U.S. government needed the Navajos’ help. And though they had suffered greatly from this same government, Navajos proudly answered the call to duty.
Communication is essential during any war and World War II was no different. Unfortunately, though codes were often used, they were also frequently broken. In 1942, a man named Philip Johnston thought of a code he thought unbreakable by the enemy. A code based on the Navajo language.
Recruiters visited the Navajo reservation and selected the first 30 code talkers (one dropped out, so 29 started the program). Many of these young Navajos had never been off the reservation, making their transition to military life even more difficult. Yet they persevered. They worked night and day helping to create the code and to learn it.
Once the code was created, the Navajo recruits were tested and re-tested. There could be no mistakes in any of the translations. One mistranslated word could lead to the death of thousands. Once the first 29 were trained, two remained behind to become instructors for future Navajo code talkers and the other 27 were sent to Guadalcanal to be the first to use the new code in combat. The code was never compromised.