WARRENSBURG — Marine Corps Day attendees got a history lesson thanks to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg as part of its Branch of Service Week.
The veteran spoke on the importance Navajo speakers played in the Marine Corps during World War II.
He discussed how U.S. enemies seemed to crack almost every military code placed before them, except for that of the Navajo language.
He said that is where the code talkers were born.
He discussed how there were only 29 original Navajo code talkers.
Those 29 were enlisted May 5, 1942.
“Maintaining secrecy, particularly during war time, is vital to the national security of every country,” he said.
The veteran described how breaking codes was necessary to gaining the advantage and shortening the war.
“The ability to send and receive codes without the risk of the enemy deciphering it was the most desirable end result of military secrecy,” he said.
He said encrypting and deciphering code could take hours.
In order to lessen the time, the U.S. Marine Corps enlisted Navajo code talkers during WWII.
The veteran said the enlistment helped defeat the Japanese in the Pacific War.
The Navajo code was classified information and was declassified in 1968, 23 years after the war’s end.
The veteran discussed how the Navajo language was double encrypted.
He said the language was not written and that about 30 non-Navajos knew the language.
The veteran said the Navajo language is exact.
“English can be spoken sloppily and can still be understood but not so with the Navajo language,” he said.
In October 1942, the original group of 29 Navajo code talkers joined the 1st Marine Division.
“The code talkers were treated with the utmost respect from their fellow Marines,” the veteran said.
He said it is estimated that 375 to 400 Navajo people served as code talkers and seven code talkers died during the war.
President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14 as Navajo Code Talker Day in 1982.
President Bill Clinton signed a law in 2000 which awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the original Navajo code talkers.
The veteran giving the presentation on Tuesday stated the last of the original 29 code talkers passed away in June of 2014.