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Coding and US Security

Posted by on November 13, 2017

If you’re a history teacher, here’s a great tie-in between history and Hour of Code:

977177navajo1

During WWI, the Choctaw language had been used to transmit U.S. military messages. With this thought in mind, Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary grew up on a Navajo reservation and spoke the Diné tongue fluently, brought the suggestion of a similar code to General Clayton Vogel early in 1942. The Diné language has no alphabet, uses no symbols and one sound may hold an entire concept. The idea was tested and proved to be faster and more reliable than the mechanized methods. The language has more verbs than nouns, that helps to move the sentences along and makes it far more difficult for outsiders to learn – making it the most ingenious and successful code in military history.

platoon

The 382nd Platoon, USMC

The original class, the 382d Platoon, Navajo Communication Specialists, USMC, developed their code at Camp Pendleton. Once a unit of code talkers were trained, they were put on Marine rosters around the Pacific Theater. Even under severe combat conditions, they remained the living codes, since nothing was ever written down. During the first 48 hours of Iwo Jima, 800 transmissions were coded. These few men became warriors in their own right during some of the worst battles of the war.

Choctaw Code Talkers

Choctaw Code Talkers

Some examples of the English word/ Navajo sound/ literal translation:

Alaska………. Beh-hga……….. with winter
America……….Ne-he-mah……… our mother
Britain……….Toh-ta………… between waters
Australia……..Cha-yes-desi…….rolled hat
China…………Ceh-yehs-besi……braided hair
France………..Da-gha-hi……….beard

Navajo code talkers

The existence of the code talkers and their accomplishments would remain top secret according to the U.S. government and use their expertise in the Korean War. Unfortunately, this resulted in many of the men not receiving the recognition they deserved. I was very lucky to have grown up knowing their story thanks to Smitty, my father.

President Ronald Reagan designated 14 August as National Code Talkers Day in 1982.

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