We recently had Veteran’s Day in the United States, and it’s a day where you recognize and thank those who are serving or have currently served in the military. There is plenty around the Internet about the military and the need to support the military, but today I want to focus on one part which is very frequently overlooked: the Navajo code talkers of WWII.
Of course, when I mention the Navajo code talkers, that’s really my umbrella term for the groups of Native Americans who used their languages to assist in WWI and WWII. It was successful because so few people outside of the native speakers themselves could speak these languages, and they weren’t intelligible with other known languages. It’s supposedly the only code that has ever been unbreakable. As someone who loves languages and seeing how languages can affect outcomes, it’s very interesting to read about their contributions and learn how they really did provide a critical service to the United States during that time.
From another perspective though, it’s actually quite amazing what service they truly provided. The history between the United States and its native inhabitants is long, complicated, and in many circumstances dishonorable. The way Native Americans were treated is not a positive part in American history. These are people who had literally everything taken from them so quickly; their land, their homes, their families, and even their language. Yet, when they were called to use the very language they were punished and forbidden from using for so long, these men still served. In some ways, they understood more than anybody else what was at risk if there were a different outcome.
Thank you, Code Talkers, for your incredibly selfless and unique service that you provided.