G-2 Intelligence, Code Talkers

619px-General_douglas_macarthur_meets_american_indian_troops_wwii_military_pacific_navajo_pima_island_hopping

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 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.

running wire during combat

running wire during combat

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

Code Talker Seal

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. Congress eventually passed the Code Talkers Recognition Act on 18 June 2002.

Choctaw code talkers

Choctaw code talkers

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Farewell Salutes:

Sam D’Agostino – from Brooklyn, NY served with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War

David Holder – from Newark, NJ, served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII as a navigator

John Angelo Viani – from Alpharetta, GA and W. Palm Bch., FL; served 20 years in the U.S. Navy in both Atlantic and Pacific

Raymond A. Borland – from Ft. Pierce, FL served the U.S. Air Force in the Korean War

Palmlee Noel Howe – from Lake Worth, FL, U.S. Navy 1948-54 aboard the USS Lake Champlain

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Resources: Codetalkers.org; Nativetelecom.org; wrscouts.com; Navajocodetalkers.org; alicestockwellegan.wordpress.com; The Palm Beach Post

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 15, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 71 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sending me over. I love the information and the pictures of the Code Talkers!

    Like

  2. I loved this story! Indeed, these highly treasured Marines fought alongside other Marines and did their job. While the Nisei MIS translators were in a “similar line of business, these Marines, I believe, saw more combat just by their responsibilities…?

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  3. The Code Talkers were amazing – too bad their recognition came so late. Thanks for liking my blog!

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  4. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    This is an excellent article about our American heroes.

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  5. Wonderful article! It’s surprising how resourceful we can be. My dad served in WWII; I have a picture of him marching as one of the color guard in a parade, but I don’t know where it was taken. It’s a shame the true heroes of our country are given less recognition than an actor.

    Like

  6. Reblogged this on 1st Americans Heritage Society and commented:
    Code Talkers, family history, Intelligence, Military, Military History, Native Americans, Navajo, Pacific War, veterans, WWII

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  7. How! Heap big successful plan!

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  8. It is a sad commentary on our time that it has taken so long for the Code Talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen, and probably many other groups, to enter into the mainstream of our knowledge of history. History is made every day by millions of tiny events. What would our world be like today without all those men and women “doing their duty” to serve their country. Every last one of them should be recognized.

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  9. I was amazed by such documentation and greatly interested in the history of the world war. Suppose there was a former American soldier in World War II in Indonesia or a child or grandchildren that blogging like you, I want to read it too. Great Blog, gpcox and don’t stop it.

    Like

  10. Outstanding post!!

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  11. As an English teacher, I find this very intriguing. Thanks for your continued determination to bring credit to so many who served our country.

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  12. This is a fascinating subject. I saw a movie a few years ago – can’t remember the name – about the code talkers. I thought it was ingenious, using code from languages that no one else had ever heard, other countries, that is. Great article.

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  13. What an amazing post, I loved hearing about these living code machines. Makes me wonder if other languages are structured with less nouns. Perhaps you get more nouns in languages which treasure possessions?
    Vey happy these men have finally received recognition, does make me wonder why this was so hard to do?

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    • They wee considered top-secret, so their records were stored in the National Archives (for I believe 30 years) after that – I have no idea what took so long. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  14. Fantastic! Love your post. With your permission, when it comes time to teach WWII, I’d love to show this in my class?

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  15. The code talkers story is so interesting to read about! I just heard about their existence in the last few years and it just fascinates me. It’s so sad that they had to wait so long to be honored for their service! Thank you for sharing this story. I really enjoy the history you share!

    Like

  16. I suppose it’s better late than never but it still was long overdue…

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  17. Fantastic reporting so many will know the story of the Navajo Communication Specialists and hopefully appreciate what they have done for our country. What a great idea!

    Like

  18. Peripatetic Eric

    Great story. Coincidentally I just passed through Kayenta AZ on the Navajo reservation a few days ago where there is an exhibit and tribute to the codetalkers.

    Like

  19. What a wonderful group of men. Thanks for introducing me to their story. One of the things I’m enjoying in reading family history stories and discovering my own, is the myriad of different experiences my military forefathers had. I guess my vision of military service was shaped by tv and movies – and I never knew about things like the Arctic Convoys that claimed the life of my great, great uncle. Thanks again.

    Like

  20. Top Secret projects stay secret for a very long time for many reasons; policy, politics, protecting related secrets, covering up, etc. Even when documents are declassified we still may not get the full or accurate story.

    I think waiting so long to honor these men was likely not caused by indifference or a lack of respect for the code talkers – who doesn’t love this story, admire the code breakers and appreciate their vital contribution? Even big bad government officials would like to be part of honoring them. So why did it take so long? We should all be concerned and consider our government’s reasons for secrecy and its policies regarding letting us know our own history.

    Elephant

    Like

    • The Archives stay classified for a certain amount of years, regardless of the content; why it took so long for them to be awarded their medals is the mystery.

      Like

  21. Thank you for sharing such an important piece about the Navajo Codetalkers.

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  22. Compelling history. Thanks for writing about this important element of the winning of the war. Native Americans served, and continue to serve, honorably and bravely in the US military.

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  23. One of my favorite heroes of the war were the code talkers. Good to see them getting more acknowledgement.

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  24. Another amazing story. I have heard about the Navajo code in WWII – but this is the first time I heard about the Choctaw code from WWI. I like swabby429’s comment and think I’ll look more into the history of this. Of course, I remember the bible story about the shibboleth, but this makes me wonder what I have been unaware of.

    Like

    • It appears – only the National Archives knows for sure – but, then again, since they are always covering things up that’s why we’re trying to relate as many personal stories here as we can. Thanks for reading, Susan.

      Like

  25. A revelation, and there are so many groups like this whose courage has been unacknowledged because of red tape.

    Like

  26. I Nominate you for a Special Bouquet of Awards – 3 Nominations

    please accept it and oblige

    there are no linkbacks for this award

    http://ajaytao2010.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/a-bouquet-of-special-awards-3-nominations/

    Like

  27. You just made me want to view the “Windtalkers.” I believe this is the only film about the code talkers and it was released in time for the recognition.

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  28. Pierre Lagacé

    There must have been so many more important things going on in the government affairs since WWII than pay homage to these men… (ironic).

    Same about the men of Bomber Command in WWII. They just got recognition last year from Britain. Now Canada is jumping on the band wagon…

    http://www.dailyheraldtribune.com/2013/04/18/long-overdue-recognition-for-bomber-command-operations

    You know how I feel about all this.

    Like

    • I know just how you feel. I had dad telling me about the Nisei and code talkers, but the government doesn’t say squat because, until the paperwork is de-classified from the archives – THEY DIDN’T EXIST!! What a crock.

      Like

  29. Gosh, 2002, that was a long time to wait for recognition. Their story is wonderful.

    Like

  30. Linguistics and shiboleths have long played very important roles in a nation’s defense. The Code Talkers story is fascinating.

    Like

  31. Thank you very much, but Smitty was my father. I don’t wish to mislead anyone.

    Like

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