At the beginning of the World War II campaign in the Pacific, the United States military was finding it difficult to develop a code that would be indecipherable to Japan’s skilled cryptographers.
In early 1942, just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Philip Johnston, a World War I veteran and one of the few non-Navajos who could speak the unwritten and complex Navajo language, convinced Major General Clayton B. Vogel to initiate a program that used a derivative form of Navajo as code for the U.S. Marine Corps.
After being specially recruited by the Marines, the 29 original Navajo code talkers completed boot camp and developed a code and dictionary based on their native language. Over the next three years, the Navajo code talkers (of which there were roughly 400 by 1945) took part in every U.S. Marine-conducted assault in the Pacific — the code was never broken.
On June 4, 2014, Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo code talkers, passed away at the age of 93 in Albuquerque NM. He was the author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, and received the Congressional Gold Medal for his part in developing the Navajo code.