Code Talkers: How the Navajo Helped Win the War In World War II, the ability to communicate in secret was hugely important. Many military failures involved a failure of clandestine communications. Japan’s planned ambush on Midway was thwarted when the United States broke down its secret transmissions. The Allied powers in Germany were given advantages after deciphering the Enigma machines’ codes. And, the American use of a complex code, the Navajo language, helped them win. There were many advantages to employing the Navajo code talkers. The first was the complexity and unfamiliarity of the language. The only place in the world where it was used was within the Navajo regions of the United States and was unlike any other language spoken. The number of non-Navajos who could understand the language at the onset of the war was under 50 and perhaps only half of that. The other important advantage was speed. Small passages could be translated to English by the Navajo people in a matter of seconds, making it far more effective than using a ciphering machine. The language was used as a code due to the suggestion of Philip Johnston, who had grown up on a Navajo reserve because his parents were missionaries there. At his suggestion, the language was studied and eventually, a couple hundred of the Navajo people were recruited to serve in the war. This was done mostly in secret and had a huge impact on the course of the war. It has been said that without the code talkers, Iwo Jima would not have been won. The code talkers worked primarily in secret, so that no one could break the code. Because of this, and the fact that the Navajo code was used into the early years of the Vietnam War, many of the men who participated were not officially recognized. This began to change slowly, in the 1980’s, when Reagan declared a national Navajo Code Talkers Day. It would take almost another 30 years for Congress to pass the Code Talker Recognition Act, which recognized all of the code talkers who participated in the program.