The Navajo Code Talkers Finally Honored

July 4 we celebrate Independence Day.  Behind all the picnics, BBQs, firework displays there is a sense of national pride that few Americans don’t feel, at least for a moment.  Not all Americans have been equal, however, despite what the Declaration of Independence says.  The words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

seem more like an ideal that actuality.  Nothing reminds us more of how unequal men have been treated than the Navajos.  They were driven from their lands and every attempt was made during mid-19th century to eradicate not only their culture but also their language. 

The United States eventually came to depend on that language that they had tried so hard to stamp out.  The Japanese were excellent code breakers.  They could decode anything slung at them until a man named Philip Johnson, son of a protestant missionary, suggested that the Navajo language be used to encrypt military messages.  Johnson had spend many years on the Navajo Reservation and this adaptation seemed like a natural to him. Many people have suggested that without the use of the Navajo Code Talkers, the War in the Pacific could have very easily have been lost. Fortunately, we will never know for certain.

The use of Navajo was kept classified for many years.  It wasn’t until fairly recently that Americans were finally told about the unique contribution made to the WWII effort by these Navajo Code Talkers.  The code was never broken.

The Navajo Code Talkers were finally honored. See them at a New York Veterans Day Parade Nov. 2009:

We should remember that most of these men were not United States citizens.  According to Southwest Crossroads:

Although the United States government finally granted citizenship to Native Americans in 1924, the states of New Mexico and Arizona denied native people the right to vote until 1948. Nevertheless, during World War I (1917-1919) many Native Americans, including Navajos, enlisted to fight for their country. In 1941 when the United States entered World War II, more than 3,600 Navajo men enlisted. Some of them were too young, but they lied about their age so that they could fight.

There are just some things that don’t make me ‘proud to be an American.’ The treatment of the Navajo as well as other tribal people is one of those things. On the other hand, the Navajo Code Talkers just make me beam with pride!

To read more about the Code Talkers

To donate to preserve the history of the Navajo Code Talkers