During World War II, coded radio transmission was the fastest way to deliver commands to units overseas. Cryptographers on both sides became adept at intercepting and decoding their opponents’ transmissions. In 1942, the Marine Corps found a new way to keep their communications secure with the Navajo Code Talkers.
Marines from the Navajo tribe began to send secure voice transmissions based on their native language. Since only a small group of Americans spoke Navajo, it was impossible for the enemy to gain intelligence from any intercepted messages. Additionally, the Navajo Code Talkers proved faster and more accurate than Morse Code or any machine.
The unique Navajo language gave the Marines a strategic advantage during the Battle of Iwo Jima and countless other World War II battles. The program was highly classified for 25 years and, to this day, there’s no indication any intercepted Navajo code was successfully deciphered.
Source: Marines.com,. ‘1942: Navajo Code Talkers’.
Philip Johnston was the initiator of the Marine Corps’ program to enlist and train the Navajos as messengers. Although Johnston was not a Navajo, he grew up on a Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary and became familiar with the people and their language. Johnston was also a World War I veteran and knew about the military’s desire to send and receive messages in an unbreakable code. According to a 1970 interview with Johnston and a paper he wrote entitled “Indian Jargon Won Our Battles,” he hit upon the idea of enlisting Navajos as signalmen early in 1942 when he read a newspaper story about the Army’s use of several Native Americans during training maneuvers with an armored division in Louisiana. The article stated that the Army included Native Americans during these maneuvers on the basis of the experiences of the Canadian Army in World War I, when the Native Americans acted as signalmen against the Germans to send secure messages about shortages of supplies or ammunition. Read More >>
Source: Archives.gov,. ‘Teaching With Documents: Memorandum Regarding the Enlistment of Navajo Indians’.