Eighty years ago this weekend, a group of young Navajo men decided to do something much bigger than themselves and signed up to be United States Marines. They didn't realize their decision change the course of World War II and save the lives of thousands of service members.
The story of the Navajo Code Talkers tells of the original 29 young Marines tasked with creating a secret code from their native unwritten Navajo language. The mission was to defeat Japan in WWII and bring the war to an end. From 1942 through 1945, over 400 Navajo Code Talkers sent thousands of messages that never were broken by the enemy.
The term 'unbroken code' remains the trademark of these great American heroes.
As Americans celebrated the war's victory with parades and awarding of war medals, the Navajo Code Talkers, sworn to secrecy, were left with untold stories of valor. Not until 1968, when the Pentagon finally unclassified the secret code, would their families and the American public recognize the actual accomplishment of these brave warfighters.
The Navajo Code Talkers' story of honor, courage and commitment eventually made its way to the White House in 2001 when the original twenty-nine Navajo received the Congressional Gold Medal. Subsequent code talkers would subsequently receive the Congressional Silver Medal.
But the story doesn't stop here. In 1982, a proclamation by President Reagan was approved designating August 14, 1982, National Navaho Code Talkers Day. President Regan remarked, "Many [Navajo men] have given their lives in the performance of their duty. Their record should be recognized by all Americans."
The President ended his speech with a challenge, "I ask the American people to join me in this tribute, and I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to commemorate this day with appropriate activities."
2022 marks the 80th anniversary of the Navajo Code Talkers' heroism and another call to arms for a nation to rise and honor these men. Today, only three original code talkers remain as the official guardians of the unbroken code.
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