Tag Archives: Code talkers

WINDTALKERS

On October 20, 2016 I made a post, courtesy of Pacific Paratrooper titled Navajo Code Talkers Day – Aug 14th.  <LIVE LINK

  Windtalkers is a Hollywood rendition of their valuable service in the Pacific Campaign.

Their language was used to transmit coded messages which the Japanese could not break.

This film doesn’t flinch from conveying the prejudice they endured.

At 1:24 in the film, a soldier makes a wisecrack about one windtalkers desire to teach American History, to “bring some of the reservation back to the world”.  The snide remark evokes a reply about Kit Carson and The Long Walk;  Checking this out I found another sordid account on treatment of native Americans at Wikipedia, posted below the movie link. (citations/numbered links removed)

Watch  WINDTALKERS

Windtalkers is a film about the Second World War when the landscape changed completely in the direction unfavorable for the Axis.  The Supreme Command of the US Army got headaches when their orders are successfully decoded by the enemy, causing countless losses for the unit.  American mathematicians use most of the minority tribal language as key , but they are still resolved by Japanese experts.

The Long Walk

Navajo on long walk

Major General James H. Carleton would be assigned to the New Mexico Territory in the fall of 1862, it is then that he would subdue the Navajos of the region and force them on the long walk to Bosque Redondo.  Upon being assigned the territory Carleton set boundaries in which the Navajos would not engage in any sort of conflict.  They were prohibited from trespassing onto lands, raiding neighboring tribes, and engaging in warfare with both the Spaniards and Americans.  A majority of the Navajos were abiding by these requirements but it was a band of Navajo freelancing raiding parties that would break these rules, for which the entire tribe would soon be penalized.

In the eyes of Carleton, he was unsuccessful and would enlist outside resources for aid.  General James Carleton would enlist famous Indian Fighter Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson.  Carson would be responsible for rounding up the Navajos and organizing the Long Walk that would ensue shortly.

Carson had made a name for himself as a distinguished individual when handling manners with the indigenous population.  He enlisted the neighboring tribes in aiding his campaign to capture as many Navajos as he could.  One tribe that proved to be most useful were the Utes.  The Utes were very knowledgeable of the lands of the Navajos, and were very familiar with Navajo strongholds as well.  Carson would launch his full-scale assault on the Navajo population in January 1864.  He would destroy everything in his path, eradicating the way of life of the Navajo people.  Hogans were burned to the ground, livestock was killed off, and irrigated fields would be destroyed.  Navajos who surrendered were taken to Fort Canby and those who resisted were killed.  Navajos would be able to escape Carson’s campaign but were soon forced to surrender due to starvation and the freezing temperature of the winter months.

The “Long Walk” started in the beginning of spring in 1864.  Bands of Navajo led by the Army were relocated from their traditional lands in eastern Arizona Territory and western New Mexico Territory to Fort Sumner (in an area called the Bosque Redondo or Hwéeldi by the Navajo) in the Pecos River valley.  (Bosque Redondo is Spanish for “round forest”—in New Mexican Spanish a bosque means a river-bottom forest usually containing cottonwood trees.)

The march was one that was very difficult and pushed many Navajos to their breaking point, including death.  The distance itself was cruel, but the fact that they did not receive any aid from the soldiers were devastating.  Not every single person was in prime condition to trek 300 miles, many began the walk exhausted and malnourished, others were not properly clothed and were not in the least prepared for such a long journey.   Neither sympathy nor remorse were given to the Navajos.   They were never informed as to where they were going, why they were being relocated, and how long it would take to get there.  One account passed through generations within the Navajos shows the attitude of the U.S. Army as follows:

It was said that those ancestors were on the Long Walk with their daughter, who was pregnant and about to give birth […] the daughter got tired and weak and couldn’t keep up with the others or go further because of her condition.  So my ancestors asked the Army to hold up for a while and to let the woman give birth, but the soldiers wouldn’t do it.  They forced my people to move on, saying that they were getting behind the others.  The soldier told the parents that they had to leave their daughters behind. “Your daughter is not going to survive, anyway; sooner or later she is going to die,” they said in their own language.  “Go ahead,” the daughter said to her parents, “things might come out all right with me,”  But the poor thing was mistaken, my grandparents used to say.  Not long after they had moved on, they heard a gunshot from where they had been a short time ago.

At least 200 died during the 18-day, 300-mile (500-km) trek.  Between 8,000 and 9,000 people were settled on an area of 40 square miles (104 km²), with a peak population of 9,022 by the spring of 1865.

There were actually as many as 50 groups, taking one of seven known routes.  They each took a different path but were on the same trail and when returning to the Navajo lands they reformed their group to become one, this group was ten miles (16 km) long.   Some of these Navajos escaped and hid out with Apaches that were running from Gen. Crook on what is known as Cimmaron Mesa southeast of present-day NM Highway 6 and I-40 ; later they relocated to Alamo Springs northwest of Magdalena,NM and are known as the Alamo Band of the Diné (Navajos).  Nelson Anthony Field who had a trading post made a trip to DC to lobby for a reservation for this Band and it was granted.  This Band is part Navajo and part Apache.

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Navajo Code Talkers Day – Aug 14th

Courtesy of Pacific Paratrooper

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During WWI, the Choctaw language had been used to transmit U.S. military messages.  With this thought in mind, Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary grew up on a Navajo reservation and spoke the Diné tongue fluently, brought the suggestion of a similar code to General Clayton Vogel early in 1942.  The Diné language has no alphabet, uses no symbols and one sound may hold an entire concept.  The idea was tested and proved to be faster and more reliable than the mechanized methods.  The language has more verbs than nouns, that helps to move the sentences along and makes it far more difficult for outsiders to learn – making it the most ingenious and successful code in military history.

Much more at his site – (name is live link)