Celebrating Navajo Code Talkers Week, August 14 – 19, 2011

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

From 1942 to the end of World War II, more than 400 courageous men from the Navajo Nation answered the call of duty, and were recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to serve as Navajo Code Talkers. During a time when U.S. Military codes were being broken by Japanese intelligence experts, these Navajo men helped to devise and use an impenetrable code based on the Navajo Language that would assist the United States military in bringing a more rapid end to the war in Japan and the Pacific, saving countless American lives. In honor of these brave men, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly issued a proclamation declaring August 14-19 as Navajo Code Talkers Week.

The first group of Navajo Code Talkers was recruited in 1942. Most of this group of 29 Navajo men had never been away from home before, and many lacked proper birth certificates, making it difficult to confirm their ages. It was later found out after war’s end that some of these men were just boys as young as 15. This first group of Navajo Code Talkers is often referred to as the “Original 29”, as they were the first to devise the code, although it would improve and enhance throughout the war. (

Navajo Code Talkers developed a initial code of about 200 terms that would increase to over 600 terms by the end of the war. These native terms from the Navajo Language were associated with respective military terms that they resembled. A clever example is the Navajo word for “turtle” being associate with a military “tank”. The code that Navajo Code Talkers developed made communication much faster, more efficient, and most importantly, safer for the U.S. Military. Communication that would normally take over 30 minutes to decipher would take less than 20 seconds for Navajo Code Talkers. Furthermore, because of the difficulty of the Navajo Language and the fact that less than 30 people outside of the Navajo Nation were fluent at the time, the code used by Navajo Code Talkers was indecipherable to the Japanese. (

During the week of August 14-19, several events will take place, honoring Navajo Code Talkers during World War II and all Native American veterans of war. These ceremonial events include: a Parade of Colors, flag raising, wreath laying, reading of names, meaningful speeches, and a motor cycle honor run to help raise funds for the planned Navajo Code Talkers Museum. The week is an important ceremonial event that will help honor and remember the brave young men, who enlisted and put their lives at risk, using their native Navajo Language to save American lives and bring a faster end to a tragic war.

Amizade would like to join our friends in the Navajo Nation in celebration during Navajo Code Talkers week!

For more information on upcoming programs with Amizade in the Navajo Nation, please visit here.