served in all branches.But, the Marines
credit themselves with originating the code talkers
Here Senator Jeff Bingaman's
Navajo Code Talker Website.
See pictures of
the ceremony and more.
from and links to the US Mint Website)
July 26, 2001
The 29 Original Navajo Code Talkers
the Congressional Medal of Honor!
6 silver medals went to qualified code talkers
(I assume not of Navajo ethnicticity?)
What is the Congressional
Medal of Honor?
The image here is the original created by George Washington on
But the award is customized in design per the recipient.
information about the Navajo Congressional Award at the Senator's
site, click the medal above.
For more information about the
CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR
(Symbolism, History, etc.) CLICK HERE!!
To the left are
links which provide detailed information on the service to our
country by the Navajo Code Talkers. Before I attempt to give you a brief
summation, I want to first state that I totally respect communications
since my father was a U.S. Naval Signalman. I also have helped
support satellite communications to the North Pole for several years
(most recently helping Will Steger and his team).
I truly feel
every talent and skill is important; and, a group that proves this is
the Navajo Code Talkers. Why the Navajos? Phillip Johnston, the son of a
missionary to the Navajos and one of a very small group of people who
could speak Navajo (who wasn't a native) had been a WWI
veteran. He knew how important it was to our country to have a
code that could stand up to all attempts to be broken by an enemy. (He
also knew that in WWI the Choctaw Indian language had been used as a
code.) So in 1942 ( a long time before I was born I might add) he
suggested to Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding
general of the Amphibious Corps, to talk them into using the Navajo's
language as code in WWII. Why? (1) It is an unwritten language of
extreme complexity. (2) It's syntax , tonal qualities and dialects make
it extremely baffling to anyone who hasn't been taught it. (3) And, they
were fast! Johnston did tests showing that the Navajos could encode,
transmit and decode a 3-line message in English in 20 seconds. At that
time, machines took 30 minutes to do the same job. (Trust me,
having done N. Pole messages, speed is of the essence! I can't do it in
20 seconds today. It takes at least that long just to boot the
Not all Navajo
were chosen. They had to know both English and Navajo. Since many
had never been off the reservation, that limited who became a Code
Talker. The men worked together to create the code within their
own language. It was a code within a coded language you might
say. After they finished making the code, it was tested by
cryptographers in the Defense Department. After 4 days of trying,
they could not break the Navajo Code talker's code. And, so it was
approved for use in battle.
In May of 1942,
the first 29 Navajo recruits went off to boot camp (aka Camp Pendleton,
CA) and first got training in Morse code, semaphore, military-style
messages, wire laying, and learning different kinds of radios. After
that, they then created the Navajo code their own dictionary for
their own code, which had to be memorized.
Talkers were a vital part of the Marine Corps. And, as such, each
Code Talker had one or two men guarding him at all times. This
wasn't just to protect him from enemy fire, but it was also to protect
him from other Marines at times who often mistook a Navajo for the
Japanese enemy. Apparently they thought they looked
alike? Chester Nez states this happened to him in the Santa
The Navajo Code
talkers took part in every US Marine assault conducted in the Pacific
between 1942-1945. To quote Major General Howard Connor,
"Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken
Iwo Jima." General Connor alone had 6 Navajo Code talkers
working around the clock during the first 48 hours of battle, sending,
coding, decoding a total of 800 messages, all with NO ERRORS!
There were 300
code talkers in total. It is believed that 13 died in WWII.
But, that's hard to validate since their existence was a secret so all
records on them were classified.
September 17, 1992 at the Pentagon in Washington, DC 35 veteran Marine
Corp code talkers attended the dedication that was long overdue
them. Click on the link at the left to read the proposal for a
Navajo Code Talkers Memorial.
Who were the
29 Original Navajo Code Talkers? For years they have been one of
our nation's best kept secrets. But their recognition is long
overdue. I am listing all the names below:
They are listed in alphabetical
order (after those still living). The list does not imply any rank,
importance or any other status.
All were great.
1. Chester Nez (Living)
2. Lloyd Oliver (Living)
3. Charlie Y. Begay
4. Roy L. Begay
5. Samuel H. Begay
6. John Ashi Benally
7. Wilsie H. Bitsie
8. Cosey S. Brown
9. John Brown, Jr.
10. John Chee
11. Bejamin Cleveland
12. Eugene R. Crawford
13. David Curley
14. Lowell S. Damon
15. George H. Dennison
16. James Dixon
17. Carl N. Gorman
18. Oscar B. Ilthma
19. Alan Dale June
20. Alfred Leonard
21. Johnny R. Manuelito
22. William McCabe
23. Jack Nez Link
24. Joe Palmer
25. Frank Denny Pete
26. Nelson S. Thompson
27. Harry Tsosie
28. John Willie
29. William Dean Wilson
These 29 led
the way! About 540 Navajos served as Marines in 1945. Out of the
540, 375 to 420 were code talkers. The rest served in other areas.
All of them volunteered to serve their country. None were
Navajo Code Talker Frank Tsosie Thompson died
June 3, 2008 at age 87.
Samuel Billson, Charles Chibitty and Joe Palmer Obits