The United States military first started using code talkers during The First World War. They were aboriginal soldiers fluent in the languages of the Cherokee and Choctaw peoples who were tasked with speaking in their native tongues to secure voice and communications from an all-too-likely eavesdropping enemy. It wasn't until they were deployed with the Marine Corps during World War II, however, that code talkers became the legends they're remembered as, today.
There were two code types used during World War II. Type one codes were formally developed based on the languages of the Comanches, Hopies, Meskwakis, and Navajos. They used words from their languages for each letter of the English alphabet. Messages could be encoded and decoded by using a simple substitution cipher where the ciphertext was the native language word. Type two code was informal and directly translated from English into the native language. If there was no word in the native language to describe a military word, code talkers used descriptive words. For example, the Navajo did not have a word for submarine so they translated it to iron fish.
Today, there are only five code Navajo code talker veterans of the Marine Corps left in the world: Joe Vandever Sr., Peter MacDonald, Samuel F. Sandoval, John Kinsel Sr., and Thomas H. Begay. Arizona Central's* Shondiin Silversmith has done the Navajo Nation and all future generations a great service by collecting the stories of these five brave men in text and video.
Taking a browse of Silversmith's feature is well worth your time: take a few moments to remember a handful of brave men who sacrificed their youth and, in far too many cases, their lives, to fend off fascism.
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