CHAY-DA-GAHI is Navajo for tortoise and U.S. codeword for tank. DA-HE-TIH-HI meaning humming bird was codeword for fighter plane. NE-HE-MAH meaning our mother was codeword for America. These are the code words uttered by the Navajo people during World War 2. The code was unbreakable and was derived from an ancient language that forever changed modern warfare. Ultimately, the code and the small band of warriors that uttered it left the axis powers scratching their heads in frustration.
When we think of America, we often attribute the American people as those that came over on a boat. We forget we are an immigrant nation surviving on stolen land. The Native American people were here long ...view middle of the document...
Now that we’ve talked about who the Navajo people are, let’s talk about how they communicate.
At the heart of their culture is their language.
During the first months of World War 2 Japanese intelligence had already broken every code the allies had come up with. The enemy was planning for our every move and staged false messages and set up ambushes using our code against us.
At a meeting at Guadalcanal military leaders voiced concerns over time spent decoding increasingly complex lines of code. They were averaging up to 2 ½ hours to encrypt and decrypt a single message. The military was in need of a better way to transmit their messages.
A civilian presented the solution and was familiar with the Navajo’s difficult language. Having no formal alphabet it was soon realized that the language was impossible to master without early exposure. The Navajo language was adapted as an indecipherable code. An elite unit of 29 tribesmen was formed in 1942. Many were goat herders and cattle ranchers that had never been away from home.
The code was developed at Camp Pendleton and took roughly 20 seconds to receive and decrypt. Military terms or phrased corresponded to native...