Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

November marks Native American, Alaskan Heritage Month

National American Indian Heritage Month. (Courtesy photo)

National American Indian Heritage Month. (Courtesy photo)

by airman matthew brewster

21st Dental Squadron

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  — During World War II, Wind Talkers, or Navajo Code Talkers, were credited with providing communications security. They spoke the Navajo language, which is a difficult language without an alphabet, making it nearly impossible for someone raised outside of a Navajo community to learn. The Japanese, who had great success breaking other military codes, could not learn the language and translate the messages.

November is Native American and Alaskan Heritage Month, and during the month, Peterson AFB is highlighting Native American contributions, including the code talkers.

During World War II there were as many as 400 code talkers, between the ages of 15 and 35, split into six Marine Corps divisions. They were used to pass messages from unit to unit, with both greater speed and security than the more complex methods that were in place.

Prior to the introduction of the Navajo Code Talkers into the military force, a single message at Guadalcanal could take up to two and a half hours of encryption and decryption.

Although the terms “Wind Talkers” and “Code Talkers” are most often associated with the Navajo speakers in World War II, the U.S. military used other Native American languages as code in both World War I and World War II.

However, the great achievements of these young men were so significant that they were deemed a military secret. Their actions and capabilities were classified until 1968. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave the code talkers a Certificate of Recognition and declared Aug. 14 “Navajo Code Talkers Day.”

On Dec. 21, 2000, Congress passed a public law awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to 29 of the World War II Navajo veterans. In July of 2001, President George W. Bush personally presented the same medal to four surviving code talkers. Additionally, 18 Choctaw Code Talkers posthumously received the Texas Medal of Valor from the Adjutant General of the State of Texas for their World War I service.

On Dec. 13, 2007, the Code Talker Recognition Act was introduced to the House of Representatives. This act recognizes every code talker that served the United States with a Congressional Gold Medal for their tribe and a silver medal duplicate for each veteran.

The 21st Space Wing will recognize Native American and Alaskan Heritage Month with a screening of the movie “Windtalkers.” Screening will take place at the base auditorium at 11 a.m. Nov. 10 and 1 p.m. Nov. 12. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. The film has been rated R for language and graphic violence.

Additionally, a performance by the Seven Falls dancers, an educational and art exhibit, and native food sampling is at 10 a.m., Nov. 12 at The Club. Please come out to join us as we take pride in our heritage and honor in our ancestors.

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