National Navajo Code Talkers Day in the United States Date in the current year: August 14, 2022

National Navajo Code Talkers Day in the United States National Navajo Code Talkers Day is observed annually on August 14. It was first proclaimed in 1982 to honor the contributions of Native Americans who served in the US military during the Second World War, using their native language to support the war effort.

Code talkers are individuals who are recruited by the military during wartime for their ability to speak a little-known language, which is used for secret communications. The term “code talker” is most often used to refer to Native Americans who served in the US military during both world wars. They included Assibinoine, Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Creek, Crow., Hopi, Lakota, Meskwaki, Mohawk, Navajo, Seminole, and Tlingit.

The pioneers of code talking were the Cherokees and Choctaws who served the First World War, but it is most strongly associated with the Navajo people who served in the US Marine Corps during WWII and used a special code based on their native language to transmit secret messages.

The use of the Navajo language for top-secret military communications in the Pacific theater was first proposed by Philip Johnston. Although not Navajo himself, he spoke the language fluently due to growing up on the Navajo Reservation, where his father was a missionary. Johnston was convinced that Navajo could be used to develop an undecipherable military code due to its complex grammar, phonology, and a lack of mutual intelligibility even with languages from the same family.

Johnston’s idea was accepted, and he was allowed to recruit Navajo speakers to the US Marine Corps. The first 29 Navajo recruits created the Navajo code during their boot camp at Camp Pendleton in May 1942. Throughout their service, Navajo code talkers were praised for their speed, skill, and accuracy.

After World War II, their deployment continued through the Korean War until the early stages of the Vietnam War. However, the contributions of the Navajo code talkers weren’t publicly recognized until 1968 because their program was classified. In 2000, the original 29 WWII Navajo code talkers received Congressional Gold Medals, and the rest were awarded with Congressional Silver Medals.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan designated August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day to commemorate Native Americans who lent their special talents and risked their lives during WWII. However, it was a one-off observance. Since then, activists have been celebrating National Navajo Code Talkers Day unofficially and fighting to have it recognized at the federal level.

National Navajo Code Talkers Day is promoted by the Navajo Code Talkers Museum and various veterans organizations. Their efforts paid off in Arizona, where National Navajo Code Talkers Day was officially recognized as a legal state holiday in 2021.

You can observe National Navajo Code Talkers Day by reading a book or watching a documentary about the invaluable contributions of Navajo code talkers and other Native American service members to the war effort, visiting the Navajo Code Talkers Museum in Arizona if you have an opportunity, donating to a Native American veterans organization, and spreading the word on social media with the hashtag #NavajoCodeTalkersDay.

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National Navajo Code Talkers Day, observances in the United States, military observances, Navajo code talkers