Pearl Harbor went under attack by the Japanese in the Pacific. During this time the news went over the radio airwaves and everyone who heard the news knew that war was imminent. The Navajo people had a reason to resent the white people during that time, but to protect their land and their way of life on the reservation was of upmost importance to them. Regardless of their opinions, many would enlist into the Marine Corps. There came about the first Twenty nine Navajo men that use their native language to defend their way of life. These Navajo men formed a code that would be unbreakable to the enemy. The United States Marine Core enlisted these men and deployed them to various locations throughout the Pacific Theater. The primary mission as “talkers” , was to transmit voice coded messages to the front lines rapidly and accurately. When given other assignments, these men showed the willingness to work any job that was assigned to them and they excelled at it.
Choctaw and Comanche Indians first used their native language in 1940 during World War I. This was the first time an attempt was made to encrypt messages in the native language. Unfortunately due to the limited vocabulary in the Comanche and Choctaw language, it was difficult for these Indians to translate English terminology to their language. Words like reconnaissance, right flank, and various other military terms had no expressions in their vocabulary. Toward the end of the war substitute words were implemented in order to pass coded messages that could not be broken by the German and Japanese soldiers. After Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1942, the need for coded messages for a second time is a main concern for the military. Messages intercepted by the Japanese soldiers made it difficult to use the element of surprise for attacks and movement for the military throughout the pacific.
“Major General Clayton B. Vogel sought and received permission from Commandant Thomas Holcomb to investigate the possibility of using Indian languages for coded communications.” Following World War I, the Army’s experimentation with the native language of the Comanche expressed vast interest amongst senior leaders.
Planning and Preparation
Philip Johnston, only four years of age at the time, moved to the Navajo reservation with his family who established a Presbyterian Mission at Leuppe, Arizona. He learned basic Navajo terms in order to communicate with the local children. These terms were known as “Trader terms.” After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles he returned to the Navajo reservation photographing the Navajos. While in California he learned of the Army’s experiments to use Indian language as a form of coded messages. Johnston contacted the Marine Corps Signal Officer Major James E. Jones relating the possibility of using Navajo language for combat communications. Jones relayed their meeting to Major General Vogel, who in turn...