The Navajo Language: A Blessing In Disguise
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Need for a Code

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Soon after that the United States of America declared war on the Japanese.  The Marine Corps was looking for an effective code since some Japanese could speak English fluently which allowed them to intercept messages and even send fake ones.  Philip Johnston proposed that they use the Navajo language.  Philip was the son of missionaries who had worked at a Navajo school and could speak Navajo fluently.  He also knew that only maybe ten people in the world outside the Navajo reservation could speak Navajo and none of them were Japanese.  (Philip’s picture and original proposal letter appear below).

A group of Navajo was recruited to create a code from the Navajo language.  After creating the code they recruited other Navajo men who knew both English and Navajo.  They went through intensive training learning the whole code before they were able allowed into battle.  As the war continued, the code was revised and expanded, and additional code talkers were selected and trained to serve in the Pacific.
A photo of Philip Johnston
Philip Johnstons proposal
Phlilp Johnston presents his idea to the Marine Corps
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