National Navajo Code Talkers Day

August 14 we celebrate the contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers to the success of the war in the Pacific during World War II. The Americans were having quite a problem with the Pacific area of the war because the Japanese were able to break their military codes about as fast as they could create them. Enter Philip Johnston, a civil engineer who lived in Los Angeles, and who had been a missionary child on the Navajo Indian Reservation. He believed setting up a code based on the Navajo language could work well for the military. What makes the Navajo language so useful in this circumstance is that it includes a number of words that, when spoken with varying inflections, may have as many as four different meanings. Navajo verb forms are especially complex.

The military agreed to a test, which was completely successful. So they recruited thirty Navajos, trained them as Marines, and set them to devising a code for military communication. It proved a total success – the Japanese never broke the code. Code Talkers were given the messages in English. Without writing them down, they translated and sent them to another Code Talker. After the message was transmitted and received, it was written down in English and entered into a message logbook. Before the war was over, over 400 were involved in the code work, and their aid was invaluable in such things as the Iwo Jima landing.

The Code Talkers’ work was a secret outside the military, and it was not until much later they were recognized for their service. It was Ronald Reagan who set aside a special day to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. In 1982, he declared August 14 to be National Navajo Code Talkers Day. You can read the proclamation, 4954, here.

Quotes about secrets

Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact that he possesses one.–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Nothing weighs on us so heavily as a secret.–Jean de La Fontaine

How can we accept another to keep our secret if we have been unable to keep it ourselves.–Francois de La Rochefoucauld

To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.–Samuel Johnson

There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.–George Bernard Shaw

Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State.–Cardinal Richelieu

Secrets have a way of making themselves felt, even before you know there’s a secret.–Jean Ferris

All secrets become deep. All secrets become dark. That’s in the nature of secrets.–Cory Doctorow

The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.–Margaret Atwood

The secret to strong security: less reliance on secrets.–Whitfield Diffie

Secrets have power, and that power diminishes when they are shared, so they are best kept and kept well. Sharing secrets, real secrets, important ones, with even one other person, will change them.–Erin Morgenstern

Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever.–Liane Moriarty

A real secret is something which only one person knows.–Idries Shah

The first rule in keeping secrets is nothing on paper.–Thomas Powers

A secret is most valuable when it remains a secret.–Brian Herbert

The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.–Roald Dahl

A secret remains a secret until you make someone promise never to reveal it.–Fausto Cercignani

A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.–Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested.–Elizabeth I

Secrets are dark things. They don’t exist in the light. They glow faintly in forgotten corners, in mysterious mind nooks, in lost memory maps. Secrets are the shadows of the soul.–Sukanya Venkatraghavan

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