Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation on Monday that will honor the Code Talkers every year on August 14 or the following Sunday if the 14th does not fall on a Sunday.
“The Navajo Code Talkers are American heroes,” Ducey said. “They assisted on every major operation involving the U.S. Marines in the Pacific theatre, using their native language to come up with an unbreakable code.”
The Navajo language was spoken by few non-Navajos and was not written, making the new code that much more difficult to decipher. While Japan was able to crack US Army codes, the Japanese never broke the Navajo code used by the Marines.
“Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” Maj. Howard Connor, the signal officer of the Navajos, said.
The military did not declassify the top-secret program until 1968, long after the Navajos helped the American war effort. It took several more decades before the program received wider recognition.
The Code Talkers were honored at the Pentagon in 1992. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented the 29 original Code Talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal, and in 2002, their story was the focus of the action movie “Windtalkers.”
CNN’s Eric Levenson and Keith Allen contributed to this report.
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