During World War II, the United States Marine Corps used the Navajo language as a code for communications. The Navajo's language is only spoken and not written, it has no alphabet or symbols to represent words, making it very secure. Only people who had learned Navajo from the Navajo themselves knew how to fluently speak the language and understand it. This made it very secure and undecipherable to anyone who had not been trained to understand it.

Philip Johnston was the man who introduced this idea of using Navajo as a military code for the USMC. He was the son of a missionary to the Navajo tribe, and a World War I veteran who knew about Choctaw being used as a code during WWI. Johnston went to Major General Clayton B. Vogel who was commanding general of the Amphibious Corps. in the Pacific Fleet in early 1942. The method was tested and proved to be much faster than using cryptology machines, and also much more secure. Vogel saw how effective the Navajo language was and recommended to the Marine Corps. commandant that they recruit 200 Navajos to be code talkers.

In May of 1942 the first Navajo code talkers were sent to basic training to become Marines. After boot camp they created a dictionary of military words not in the language and memorized them all. After a Navajo completed training and memorized the terms needed, he was sent to join a Marine unit that was deployed in the Pacific. They mainly performed coding and decoding duties for all vital communications, along with sometimes being messengers.

The code talkers participated in every USMC assault from 1942 to 1945 in the Pacific theater. Their skills were vital for keeping attacks and maneuvers secret from the Japanese code breakers, who never did decipher the Navajo code. They went unrecognized after the war because the code was still useful to the U.S. government and top secret. On September 17, 1992 they were honored with a ceremony for their contributions to the U.S. war effort, and a Navajo Code Talker exhibit was dedicated at the Pentagon.

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