The Navajo Code Talkers Essay

2386 words - 10 pages

After accepting Philip Johnston’s offer, Marine recruiters visited Navajo schools in Fort WIngate, Arizona and Shiprock, New Mexico to find the most educated Navajos to create an unbreakable and successful code. The Marines agreed to only take 30 Navajos, because they didn’t want to lose much money in case of a disaster. After a long search and the men were selected, the chosen Navajos were taken to a San Diego training camp in California (Aaseng 22). While living in the camps, Navajo men had to adapt to many different things such as new foods, living quarters, mechanical equipment, and competition which was never part of Navajo culture. These were all hard, temporary parts of life for the Navajo, but not as hard as adjusting to military discipline (Aaseng 27). Navajos never hurt anyone, so the physical discipline was hard, cruel, and new to them. The physical training, however, came easily to the Navajos because these men were used to being tired and walking (Aaseng 28). After training in San Diego, the Navajos were sent to a camp right outside of San Diego in a town called Pendleton to learn how to communicate messages. During their time at the Pendleton camp, Navajos studied Morse Code, the techniques of military message writing, wire laying, pole climbing, communicating procedures, and using radios (Aaseng 29). When the Navajos were finally able to start creating the written code, they were given 211 English words likely to be used to during the war. Their goal was to create a written Navajo equivalent for each word. Navajos were given strict instructions to have their code fully memorized because the U.S. needed acceleration and speed from their translators. The U.S. set up rules and requirements regarding creating the code. First, a logical connection had to be found with the terms Navajo words represented. Second, the code words had to be unusually descriptive or creative (Aaseng 30). Third, the codes had to be simple and short. Finally, the fourth and final rule was that the confusion of words could be avoided. In order to meet all of the required specifications, Navajos had many ways of relating English words to Navajo culture or their own words. They first made the names for the marine corp. units by relating the units to their own Navajo Clans in order to signify different groups. Next, Military airplanes were named after different Navajo names of birds. Third, Navajos took American words and hearing such as the military term “Amphibious Assault,” meaning ground forces attack from the sea. The Navajo word for frog was chosen for that term because a frog is considered an amphibian (Aaseng 31). Another way Navajos thought of plausible words was using words from their own worldview. In the Navajo Culture, a mother’s side of the family dominates. Because of this, they chose ne-he-mah, which means mother, to use for the code name for the United States. In addition to many word strategies, Navajos used their own sense of humor to conduct...

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