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Secret Code Talkers
In 1942, 29 men from the Navajo Nation were hired by the United States Marines. Their job was to develop a military code in their native language. This code was used to make sure that all military communication was kept secret during World War II.
Some military words were direct translations from English to Navajo or other Native languages.
The Code Talkers often had to invent words. For example, there is no Navajo word for "tank." Because a tank has a hard shell and moves along the ground, they called it a "wakare-ee," which means turtle.
The Code Talkers created and memorized the new code in a very short time. They sent thousands of messages, and none were ever decoded by enemy forces.
Despite their important role in the war, the Code Talkers weren’t officially recognized for over 26 years. Their work was kept secret and they were not even allowed to tell their own families about it.
Finally, in 1968, the military made the Code Talker program public, and those who served were honored. In 2001, the surviving veterans of the Navajo Code Talkers were presented with Congressional Medals of Honor.
On the back of the medals, in the Navajo language, is written, "With the Navajo language they defeated the enemy."