Navajo Code Talkers to Get High Honors
DECEMBER 19, 2000
 
 

The Navajo Code Talkers will finally receive a long-overdue recognition when they are awarded Congressional medals of honor.

The budget bill approved by Congress last Friday includes a provision to award gold medals of honor to the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. Silver medals would be awarded to those who followed in the footsteps of the original, who numbered over 300.

Using the Dine language, the Code Talkers developed an unbreakable code used by the United States to help win

World War II. Their code helped save lives of other American soldiers at the battles of Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa, among others.

The Code Talkers project, along with similar ones involving the Hopi and Choctaw languages, had been kept under wraps by the government well after the war ended. When the project was declassified in 1968, the American public learned of the role American Indian soldiers played in the war.

But while accolades have poured in from the rest of the country, the government itself was slow to recognize the Code Talkers' actions with such a high designation as a medal of honor. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.Mex) helped bring the issue to the table during this year's Congressional sessions.

His proposal received initial approval in the Senate's defense authorization bill in June, and after stalling in the House, it emerged as part of the huge spending bill passed on Friday. Clinton lauded the passage of the bill and it awaits his signature.

Interest in the Code Talkers and their story has picked up in recent years. Two competing movies are currently in production involving the Code Talkers.

The Code Talkers were also honored with a Living Legends award at the Third Annual Native American Music Awards.

On Veterans Day, three representatives from the Navajo Code Talkers Associated accepted the award on behalf of the others, many of whom have now passed on.

The gold and silver medals of honor will be given to a family member of the Code Talkers who have died.


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