Located in Tuba City, Arizona is the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, that has a building dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers, otherwise known as Windtalkers. Just a few steps away is the Tuba City Trading Post, that sells authentic Native American goods. This place of Navajo commerce really sets the tone for the museum across the way. Navajo Interactive Museum not only offers visitors the chance to learn how the Navajo people lived their daily lives, as well as their culture as a whole, but it also offers insightful information as to the help the United States received from the Navajo during World War II. Adjacent to the museum is an entire exhibit dedicated to the Navajo soldiers known as “Code talkers”. Originally, the Marines were able to use Cherokee and Choctaw languages to create codes for transmitting messages throughout World War I, but once this was discovered, the Germans and Japanese sent students to the United States to learn these native languages. Philip Johnston suggested the use of the Navajo language due to its unique complexity. After a basic alphabet was set, the Navajo code talkers were able to communicate around 800 messages during the Battle of Iwo Jima, leading to a United States victory.
The Marines were weary of the use of native languages after the first world war. More enemies were able to send students to travel to America and learn the native languages fairly easily, so the Marines were beginning to consider putting an end to the use of Native American languages for code and intelligence, and began the search for a different code. Philip Johnston grew up on a Navajo reservation with his parents, and was proficient in the language. He knew the Navajo language was not written, it was only used in a small region, and only a handful of non Navajo people could speak it. Johnston suggested the use of this extremely complex language for an unbreakable military code. The Marines began to recruit Navajo men and began the process of creating their code. This lead to the development of the Windtalkers, without whom, there would likely be a different outcome of World War II.
The standard encryption machines used at the time were able to decipher a code in 30 minutes. The Windtalkers were able to decrypt these same codes in around 20 seconds. This was proof enough for military leaders to immediately recruit more Navajo men to begin bootcamp. The code talkers proved very useful throughout World War II, but most of all, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. This battle was long and bloody, but the Navajo in the Marines were calm and collected throughout. There were 6 Navajo marines that worked around the clock, during the entire battle, translating up to 800 messages without a single error. Victory was made possible by the Navajo in this battle, and the war was soon coming to a close.
This museum, sharing space with the Tuba City Trading Post, is one of the few recognitions the Navajo people received for their service. It was not until many years after the end of the war that they were awarded certificates from President Reagan in 1982, and Congressional Gold Medals in 2001, from President Clinton and President Bush. August 14 is “Navajo Code Talkers Day.” Directly next to the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, the Navajo Code Talkers Museum offers visitors the chance to explore actual gear used in battle by the Navajo, as well as some transcripts of a Code Talker.