On this date… February 23, 1945… Iwo Jima, Japan

Iwo Jima1On this date, the US flag was raised over Iwo Jima. Young Navajo men, once punished for speaking their language in the boarding schools, sent over eight-hundred messages during the battle. Here is a sample of the code:

Ba-ah-ne-di-tinin, key, the letter K.

Tkin, ice, the letter I.

Tacheene, red soil, battalion.

Da-he-tih-hi, hummingbird, fighter plane.

The full code is available at this Department of Defense website.

Iwo Jima2The Japanese had broken dozens of codes, but they never could understand this one. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, said afterward, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.”

Navajo was not the only Native American language used by the US military. Choctaw was used during World War I and Comanche was used by the US Army in World War II.

Iwo Jima3More information about the Navajo code breakers can be found here.

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