National Navajo Code Talkers Day
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan designated August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day. On this date, we honor the incredible sacrifices made by men of the Navajo Nation in serving as radio Code Talkers in the Marine Corps during World War II. These Code Talkers participated in every assault conducted by the Marines in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. According to the United States Marine Corps, "The Navajo code is the only spoken military code to have never been deciphered."
The Navajo language played a major role in the ultimate allied victory in the Pacific theatre of World War II. People's World writes, "Navajo was spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest. It's syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, made it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and proper training." Navajo men trained under incredibly stressful situations to be prepared for using their language as a code in combat situations. People's World estimates "that at the outbreak of World War II, fewer than 30 non-Navajo could understand the language."
A depiction from the movie Windtalkers of Navajo Code Talkers using their code to assist Marines in combat. (YouTube: Movieclips)
Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo Code Talkers by his side at the Battle of Iwo Jima. These men worked tirelessly during the opening days of the battle, sending and receiving over 800 messages without error. Major Connor offered the highest praise to these heroes saying, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."
A photo of a Navajo Code Talker during World War II. (Photo: navajopeople.org)
Kee Etsicitty was a Navajo Code Talker with the 3rd Marine Division. He took great pride in the contributions of the Navajo Nation during the war stating, "We, the Navajo people, were very fortunate to contribute our language as a code for our country's victory."
A photo of Kee Etsicitty before he passed away in 2015. Etsicitty served in the battles of Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima during the Second World War. (Photo: navajotimes.com)
According to HistoryNet, "421 Navajos had completed wartime training at Camp Pendleton's code talker school, and most had been assigned to combat units overseas." Kee Etsicitty also believed that over 400 Navajos served as Code Talkers during World War II.
On this special day, let us remember the unbreakable code and spirit of the Navajo people in one of the greatest challenges our nation has ever faced. Perhaps President Reagan put it best when describing the sacrifices made by Native Americans in the U.S. military, "Many have given their lives in the performance of their duty. Their record should be recognized by all Americans." We must never forget the valor and dedication of these true American heroes.