Honoring the Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers Day is on August 14 each year, and as we approach that date, we are thankful for their service and humbled by their sacrifices. We are also honored to work with the Navajo Nation to provide immediate relief and support long-term solutions for strong, self-sufficient Native American communities.

Marking the date of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II, August 14 was officially designated Navajo Code Talkers Day in Arizona in 2014 when then-Governor Jan Brewer ceremoniously signed a bill that passed in the State House and Senate.

1940 Code Talkers. (NAU.PH.413.1223. Phillip Johnston Collection. Spec.  Collections & Archives, Cline Library, Northern AZ Univ.)

1940 Code Talkers. (NAU.PH.413.1223. Phillip Johnston Collection. Spec. Collections & Archives, Cline Library, Northern AZ Univ.)

It has been almost 70 years to the day that World War II ended, and in that time, all 29 of the original Navajo Code Talkers have passed away. These brave men – some of them just boys at the time – were recruited by the U.S. Marines to develop an undecipherable wartime code using their native Navajo language. This code was critical in a number of campaigns and helped save thousands of lives.

It wasn’t until 1968, however, when the program was declassified that the Code Talkers could honestly and openly share all they had done. In fact, when they returned home from the war, the Code Talkers were not allowed to say what they had done or share the significant role they played in the victory of World War II. This was a challenging time for these men, initially being told they were crucial to the U.S. Marines, then being told they couldn’t speak a word when they got home.

Finally, in the year 2000, the 29 original Code Talkers were awarded gold Congressional Medals. While none of the “original 29” are still with us, their legacy and stories live on in a number of museum exhibits, articles, videos and interviews, and in the stories passed down by their families.

This Navajo Code Talkers Day, in their honor, please take a moment to reflect on the significant contribution they made to our country and our freedom.


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