Editor's note: A version of this story originally appeared in 2017
Thirty-eight years ago, President Ronald Reagan designated August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in honor of the American Indians who joined the Marine Corps in World War II and lent their language to the crypto effort against Japan.
“Equipped with the only foolproof, unbreakable code in the history of warfare, the code talkers confused the enemy with an earful of sounds never before heard by code experts,” Reagan wrote in praise of the Marines. “The dedication and unswerving devotion to duty shown by the men of the Navaho Nation in serving as radio code talkers in the Marine Corps during World War II should serve as a fine example for all Americans.”
The Navajo volunteers' work to defend America against fascism was all the more remarkable, given the segregation and racism they faced at home, displaced by white settlers and corralled into slum-like reservations. Many of the men were barred from voting for the very government they defended.
This August 14, take some time to remember the code talkers' heroism and sacrifice. Here's Pfc. Joe Hosteen Kellwood, who died in 2016, recalling how to sing the fabled Marine Corps Hymn in his native tongue:
Semper fi, Joe.