It was a delight to read the excellent article on Navajo code talkers by Eloise Ogden, reprinted in the Herald from the Minot Daily News on Sunday, May 12. The reader -- at least this reader -- was left with a detailed and clearly outlined understanding of the creative (dare I say “ingenious") process of adapting a Native American language for use an unbreakable code for military purposes. An unfortunately necessary application, to be sure, but an invaluable one at the time.

As a footnote to this fine article, I would like to point out that this application of a Native American language probably had its source in a virtually identical but lesser known use in the waning days of World War I. Near the end of the war, and prior to at least two major battles, the U.S. Army had organized teams of Native American recruits from a given tribe to communicate with one another in their native language by means of field radios or telephones. The enemy, having an uncanny ability to break "normal" codes, were unable to decipher these communications. Authorities differ as to which Native group was the first to communicate under fire. The most common choice seems to be the Choctaws with the Cherokees running a close second. Authorities do agree, however, that these early code talkers made a tremendous contribution to eventual victory and a significant shortening of the war.

Referring to the Choctaw code talkers as a whole, Wikipedia says, "They served the U.S. bravely even though they, like most Native Americans at the time, did not hold U.S. citizenship and were treated as 'subjects'." This statement seems to resonate well with the comment by Peter McDonald in the Ogden article: "What we (the WWII code talkers) did truly represents who we are as Americans."

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