Navajo Code Talkers: America's Secret Weapon in World War II

Aaseng, Nathan. Navajo Code Talkers: America's Secret Weapon in World War II. 2005. Available in paperback. 114pp. Lexile: 1170.

This is a terrific story that deserves a wide audience, yet was kept secret by government order for decades.  During World War II, the Marines recruited Navajos to develop and transmit an unbreakable code based on their native language. The irony is that boarding schools for Indians run by the government had vigorously tried to suppress Navajo and other Indian languages, washing out children’s mouths with soap when they spoke their native language.  The Navajo marines faced danger and death in the Pacific as they received and transmitted messages on the forefront of the fighting, messages instrumental in many key battles. As one major is quoted as saying, “Were it not for the Navajo code, we would never have taken Iwo Jima.”  This is not only a great war story but also a story of great generosity as Navajos whose tribe had been severely mistreated by the U.S. government nevertheless fought and died for their country.  Includes a useful map of the Pacific battle sites.

Fiction tie-in  Pair this with Joseph Bruchac’s 2005 novel, Code Talker, about a fictional Navajo Marine, schooled at a harsh boarding school, where speaking Navajo is punished.  As a teenager, he joins the Marines to be a code talker during the war, seeing brutal action in Guadalcanal, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.