Association of Former Intelligence Officers

NAVAHO CODE TALKERS In some of the toughest battles of the South Pacific, Navajo Code Talkers transmitted thousands of radio messages in a code based on their intricate and unwritten language, in which fighter planes became "hummingbirds," dive bombers "chicken hawks" and submarines "iron fish." Though the Japanese repeatedly broke other American military codes, they never came close to cracking the Navajos', which remains one of the handful of codes in military history that were never deciphered. In fact, the Navajos' secret was considered so valuable that it was kept classified until 1968. And their singular contribution to the wartime efforts of what has been called "the greatest generation" went largely unheralded. Fewer than half the code talkers are still alive.

But suddenly, it seems, their story is popping up everywhere. It was the subject of a recent documentary on television's History Channel. It is celebrated in "The Code Book" (Doubleday, 1999), Simon Singh's history of cryptography. The Smithsonian Institution has asked for help in putting together a display about the code talkers in its new museum of Indian history on the Mall in Washington. Not one but two Hollywood films are in the works.

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #43-99, 30 Oct 1999

AFIO Central Office
6723 Whittier Avenue
Suite 303A
McLean, Virginia 22101-4582
Telephone: 703 790 0320
Facsimile: 703 991 1278
© 2006 AFIO
Copyright and Privacy Notice