The native speakers of the United States responsible for sending and decoding secret messages in their mother tongue during World War II were honored at the White House today.
The ceremony coincides with the National Month of the American Indian Heritage.
The enlistment of Native Americans as code programmers dates back to World War I, when the American Indians of the Choctaw Tribe transmitted messages over the telephone to help defeat the Central Powers.
In 1941 and 1942, the Marine Corps began recruiting the Navajo tribe at the suggestion of Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran who had grown up on a Navajo reservation.
The 29 Navajo recruits were tasked with developing a code that would use their tribal language that could be used to transmit messages on the battlefield without being intercepted.
"The commanding officer, you are given a message that is written It's just talking briefly about the amount of ammunition and a certain area of the Pa that the Marines are being killed. They need more machine gun machine guns "You translate that as small as you can," John Brown Jr., one of 29 original code-issuers, told the National Museum of the American Indian in an interview in 2004.
As World War II progressed, the number of speakers of Navajo codes increased from 29 to 400. American Indians were also recruited from at least 14 other tribes, such as the Hopi, the Comanches and the Meskwakis, to serve as spokespersons.
The code created by the Navajos would be unbreakable for enemy and instrumental forces to ensure victory during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
"If it were not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima," according to Major Howard Connor, the Navajo signal officer.
Speakers of Native American codes would not be formally recognized for their service until decades later. The Navajo Code Talkers military program of the Second World War remained a secret until it was declbadified in 1968.
In 1982, President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring August 14, 1982, as the National Day of the Communicators of the Navajo Code. In 2000, Congress pbaded a bill that granted the 29 speakers of original Navajo codes with Gold Medals from Congress. It would be another seven years before Congress pbaded the legislation, recognizing those who spoke the code of all the American Indian tribes they served.
"In the war, using their mother tongue, they relayed secret messages that changed the course of the battle," President George W. Bush said at a ceremony in 2001 at the United States Capitol, presenting gold medals in Congress to some of the last surviving original Navajo code speakers.