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Aug. 14 National Navajo Code Talkers Day


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Navajo Code Talker’s Day
Helen Oliff
August 14, 2011

August 14 is National Navajo Code Talker’s Day. It hasn’t always been so. Although the “original 29” who created the military code attended boot camp in May 1942, and they along with nearly 400 other Navajo Code Talkers helped the United States military win World War II by the end of 1945, the group “received no recognition until the declassification of the operation in 1968.”

On July 28, 1982, President Reagan declared August 14 National Navajo Code Talker’s Day. It was September 17, 1992 when the Pentagon recognized the Code Talkers’ contribution. This delay was reportedly due to the “continued value of their language as a security classified code.” It was December 21, 2000 that President Clinton signed into law the statute awarding the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers with Congressional Gold Medals – the highest civilian award in the United States. And it was July 2001, when President Bush personally presented the Congressional Medal to four surviving Navajo code talkers in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. The fifth living code talker of the original 29 was unable to attend. Gold medals were also presented to relatives of the 24 code talkers no longer living.

The Navajo code talkers were commended for their skill, speed, and accuracy. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had 6 Navajo code talkers working 24×7 during the first two days of the Battle of Iwo Jima. They sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor was later quoted as saying, “Were it not for the Navajo, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

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