National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is on December 7th.  This year will mark the 76th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941.  After the Japanese bombarded Pearl Harbor, the United States officially entered World War II.  One of the many problems that Americans faced during the war was that the Japanese were able to unravel top secret military codes.  When they knew these tactics, they were able to defeat Americans. Philip Johnston came up with a wonderful idea to help Americans during World War II.

Johnston, who was a civil engineer and a World War I veteran, wanted to use Navajo code talkers.  He knew they could produce codes that the Japanese could never break.  Growing up on a Navajo Indian Reservation, Johnston learned the Navajo language.  Johnston’s parents were both Protestant missionaries who helped the Navajo community.  Since Johnston was fluent in the Navajo tongue, he knew that it was a complex language.  In the Navajo language, one word could have multiple meanings.

Since his idea was brilliant, he met with Major General Clayton Vogel early in 1942.  At first Vogel was  a little skeptical.  After a test was conducted, Navajo men showed that they were able to successfully encode and transmit a three line English message.  They were able to do the task in just 20 seconds.  Navajo code talkers were now recruited.   They were trained for important missions in World War II.

Not only did the code breakers have to be proficient in English and in the Navajo tongue, they also had to be physically fit. The majority of code talkers served in the Marines.  While some served in the US, others were stationed overseas.  The Navajo code talkers used military telephone.  They also used radio communication nets to transfer their codes.  The code word silver oak referred to the rank of lieutenant colonel.  The Navajo term for buzzard was used for bomber.  Shark referred to destroyer. These are just some examples of the many words that the code talkers used to defeat the enemies in World War II.

Even though Johnston was too old to serve in World War II, he still made great contributions by training the code talkers.  Johnston loved America so much that he volunteered to teach the code talkers.  There were 421 Navajos who finished training at Camp Pendleton’s code talker school.

Of all the conflicts in the Pacific, the battle of Iwo Jima was one of the most challenging of all.  The Navajo code talkers saved many lives.  They helped make the military operation at Iwo Jima successful.  Mayor Howard Conner said that the whole maneuver was conducted by Navajo Code.  The Navajo code talkers sent 800 messages flawlessly.

There were 407,316 American military deaths during World War II.  If the code talkers had not participated in World War II, there would have been even more American casualties.  Because of their heroism, the Navajo code talkers will never be forgotten.  On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Public Law 106-559, 114 Enactment 2763.  This law granted a Congressional Gold medal to the original twenty-nine World War II Navajo code talkers.  Still to this day, the Navajo code is the only military code that has never been broken.