NDN Code talker Veterans: US Army and Navajo USMC
By Roy Cook

Arthur L. Money presents Charles Chibitty with a cased American flag that was flown over the capitol during ceremonies in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. The 78- year-old Chibitty is the last surviving World War II Army Comanche "code talker." Money is the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence.


Following their graduation, the Marines marched directly to Fleet Marine Force Training Center at Camp Elliot where they received courses on transmitting messages and radio operations. During their time at Camp Elliot and Camp Pendleton, the 29 Navajo Marines constructed the code, which consisted of an alphabet and accurate replacement phrases for military terms. The alphabet used words to represent letters, such as "wol-la-chee," or ant, for the letter A, and "dzeh," or elk, for the letter E. For military terms, they used replacements such as "da-ha-tih-hi," or humming bird, for a fighter plane, and "gini," or chicken hawk, for dive bomber. The Navajos' creation contained 211 replacement terms and phrases. Any military phrases that didn't have replacements were spelled out.

The Navajo Code Talkers had their first field test in July 1942. The Coast Guard mistakenly picked up on a transmission and reported it as strange and possibly hostile.

After completing their training, the original 29 code talkers were assigned to several divisions bound for the South Pacific. A few remained at the school, which was later moved to Camp Pendleton, Calif., to train incoming Navajo Marines.

After reporting to their units, the code talkers saw action on several South Pacific islands including Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, Palau and Okinawa. One of the most important and bloodiest battles of the South Pacific, Iwo Jima, was one of the code talkers' finest examples of proficiency. During the battle, six Navajo Code Talkers sent more than 800 messages without error.

"Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima," said Maj. Howard Connor, the 5th Marine Division signal officer for whom the six Navajo Code Talkers worked during the first 48 hours of battle.

While serving overseas, the Navajos had to constantly update their code to prevent repetitiveness and frequently used words from being discovered by the Japanese. Commonly used letters, such as E, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, L and U, had several alternative words. Overall, the code grew to more than 400 phrases and words for the code talkers to memorize.

"My weapon was my language," said the late former Navajo Code Talker Joe Morris Sr. in a San Bernardino park on Veterans Day in 2004. "We saved a lot of lives."

Following on this rich heritage is one of the most elite and highly regarded units in the United States Marine Corps. There are the several Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) units. These Marines and attached Navy personnel have coordinated air, naval gunfire, artillery and other support to Marines, other U.S. forces, and numerous allied units since the Korean War.

SFA-75 Sgt. Major, Raul Garcia, on the right, was in the USMC before volunteering for the Green Berets.
“I remember training in Camp Elliot. I didn't look like it does now. It was jack rabbit country between Clairemont Drive and Mira Mar. The area was all the same past Mira Mar, open all the way to Escondido. We had lots of training area to use. The outfit that I was in was USMC, 1st ANGLICO. I was in the Unit from 1955 to 1957. I was not around when the Unit was deactivated but received a call to attend the reactivation of 1st ANGLICO, I believe it was sometime in 2003. Since then I joined the ANGLICO Association and have linked up with seven of the guys that I served with. I hadn't seen some of these guys since 1957, it was great to reconnect. I still stay in touch with my old Gunny.

He was telling me that President Kennedy was ready to invade Cuba. I think it was the 82nd Airborne that got in touch with ANGLICO to drop an ANGLICO team to provide support because it would take about two hours for the artillery to set up after being dropped and ANGLICO could be up in minutes and the 82nd needed support immediately. His team was waiting on the tarmac for hours until the operation was called off.”

Even at the units inception, ANGLICO operated in a unique manner. During the Korean War, 1st ANGLICO Marines were TAD to 1st Signal Company and detached to several ROK Marine Regiments. Teams operated alone, and detached to units that required their skill set. If you're a Marine, you recognize place names like "Heartbreak Ridge", "The Punchbowl", and "Chosin (Jang Jin in Korean) Reservoir". Well, the 1st ANGLICO Marines were there.

In Vietnam, Hanoi Jane (jane fonda) singled out the ANGLICO Marines several times as the bad boys. If the Commies were aware of us, we must have been doing something right! We supported many U.S. and Allied units there, including the Korean Marine Corps. We were there at their most famous battle of Tra Binh Dong, making our mark in USMC and ROKMC history. ANGLICO remained on the DMZ with Vietnamese Marines long after U.S. forces were officially withdrawn, departing by helicopter when surrounded by Soviet-built tanks.

More recently, at the battle of Battle of Khjafji, the first battle in Desert Storm, an ANGLICO team took charge and became the deciding factor in the battle.

In a ceremony in the US Capitol on July 26, 2001, the original twenty-nine Navajo "code talkers" received the Congressional Gold Medal, and subsequent code talkers received the Congressional Silver Medal. President Ronald Reagan in 1982 designated Aug. 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, the Navajo Code Talkers Association and Department of Navajo Veterans Affairs will celebrate the holiday and honor the brave young Navajo men who answered the call to duty and helped devise an unbreakable military code.