Native Indian Americans, specifically the Navajos, played a crucial role in the
Americans' success over the Japanese in the Second World War. They were the ones
who provided a secret weapon that could be used to great advantage against the
Many of the Navajos were living on reservations (places allocated
specially for them) in various American states. When they heard that Japan had
bombed Pearl Harbor and that as a result, America entered the war, many of them
decided that they would enlist and fight for America against the Japanese. This
was in spite of the fact that years ago, the Navajos had fought against the
American military for occupying their lands. Now they were fighting for the same
military. Yet the Navajos still felt a sense of patriotism for America and many
were determined to defend their country.
What special skill, then, could the Navajos provide ? Well, their uniqueness
lay in their language. Like most of the Indians in America, their language was
primarily an oral one, passed down from one generation to another. Few people,
apart from the Navajos themselves, could understand their language. This meant
that the Navajo language could be used as a mode of communication among American
troops stationed in different areas. There need not be any fear that the
Japanese would intercept and comprehend their messages. in contrast, English did
not have this advantage. many young Japanese were educated in American
universities and so could easily understand English.
Before the Navajos came along, the Americans used modern technology to encode
their messages. This was, however, not fool-proof as the enemy could easily
intercept or even imitate this system to send false messages. Many of the
officers in the military were sceptical of
using the Navajo language as a code. It just seemed too effortless on the part
of the Navajo speakers. Some officers even conducted a 'man against machine'
test. Messages were sent out using both normal military equipment and through
the Navajo speakers. The Navajo speakers sent the messages out to one another
safely and accurately each and every time. In an experiment, navy officers were
given a period of three weeks to decode a message in Navajo. In spite of that
long period of time, they failed.
Working for the American military was not an easy task for the Navajo
speakers. Some of them were given bodyguards because some American soldiers
could not distinguish them from the Japanese. Their lives were in danger not
only because of the enemy, but also because of their own fellow soldiers.
The work of the Navajos was kept a state secret. If any of them were asked
what they did in the war, they would answer that they were radiomen. It was only
in 1968 that the public came to know about the instrumental role of the Navajos
and their important contribution.