Monday, August 15, 2011

August 14- Navajo Code Talkers Day

Navajo Code Talker Joe Morris Sr in 2007 photo
Twenty nine years ago yesterday, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation that August 14 be known as Navajo Code Talkers Day. This was among the first official acts of recognition since the program was declassified in 1968.
"Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate August 14, 1982, as National Navaho Code Talkers Day, a day dedicated to all members of the Navaho Nation and to all Native Americans who gave of their special talents and their lives so that others might live. I ask the American people to join me in this tribute, and I call upon Federal, State and local officials to commemorate this day with appropriate activities."
[Sorry I'm a day behind with this, by the way- NANESB!]

At the outbreak of WWII, it was believed that there were no more than 30 non-Navajo people in the world familiar with the language- none of them Japanese.

Sensing an opportunity to confound Japanese eavesdroppers, in 1942 Marine Corps brass began gathering and training Navajo recruits to create and communicate a code in their native Navajo tongue. Throughout the war, Imperial Japanese military cryptographers were never able to decipher the Navajo's code. However, after the war, the program remained secret and the departing Navajo recruits were sworn to secrecy until the Code Talker project was declassified in 1968.

The Code Talkers participated in nearly every Marine assault in the pacific theater between 1942 and 1945. To this day, the Navajo Code Talkers proved to be the most effective known means of encrypted communication in modern warfare.

On Sunday, July 17th Code Talker Joe Morris Sr passed away at age 85 from complications due to a stroke at the VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, CA.

Morris had just turned 17 and was working in an Arizona mine when he was drafted in 1943. He credited a Navajo medicine man that also worked in the mine with keeping him safe throughout the war, saying that the shaman prayed a day and a half for his safety. After the war, Morris married and settled in Dagget, CA where he had a civilian job with a Marine supply center until he retired in 1984.

Joe Morris Sr is survived by his wife of 61 years, two sons, a daughter, three brothers and three grandchildren.

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