How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII - We Are The Mighty
popular

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

March is Marine Infantry Month, here’s how to celebrate

Okay, okay. Marines are arrogant; we get it. So, maybe we don’t need to dedicate an entire month to one of the finest fighting forces on the planet. Maybe doing so will simply add fuel to their egotistical fire. But the fact is that Infantry Marines are some of the best, most badass creatures on the planet, and we’re going celebrate them however we damn-well want.

Luckily, for the celebratory folks among us, the Marine Corps’ MOS codes have given us a pretty easy-to-follow structure. So, we’re officially declaring that March be Marine Infantry Month, and we’re marking the following days on our calendars to celebrate each of the many Marine Corps Infantry sub-cultures.


How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

It should be noted that, on this day, if you wish to express your anger, just yell, “but I have a college degree!”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 1st — Infantry Officers Day (0301)

While many may not feel like celebrating it, infantry officers are certainly something you can appreciate. Each year, we’ll start this day off with a land navigation course during which you purposely get lost before you find yourself on a beach, sipping on expensive alcohol with lance corporals cooking on grills (not in the barracks, though).

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

See how much fun this one’s having? That could be you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer)

March 11th — Day of the Rifleman (0311)

The most populous of the infantry jobs, on March 11, start your celebration with a long-distance run or a patrol into a densely wooded area nearby. Once you’re there, eat some MREs — but save that poundcake! You’ll need it for the ceremonial field birthday cake: an MRE pound cake with a burning cigarette in the center.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

This is a day of stillness. Don’t you move, boot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Israel Chincio)

March 17th — Day of the Snipers (0317)

When you wake up on the 17th, paint your face in camouflage, crawl a few miles, and then lay there for the rest of the day. When the sun starts to set, shoot a rifle at something really far away, and then crawl home.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

A fun day at the beach, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

March 21st — Day of Reconnaissance (0321)

On the 21st, take a boat out from the shore before paddling it back in. What you do after you’ve landed is completely up to you, but no matter what, you can’t tell anyone what happened.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Also, make that dumb crunchy dig your fighting hole then take it over!

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 31st – Weapons Day (0331, 0341, 0351, 0352…)

Because there are a lot of MOS codes out there that end in numbers bigger than 31, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover at the end of the month. Not exactly optimal — each job really deserves their own day — but hey, we didn’t make the universe.

Here’s how a celebration might go: You sit back and watch as the riflemen do all the work and only help them when they call up the proper radio report. Then maybe you help them. Otherwise, you’ve got an avenue of approach to keep an eye on, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Dear John’ SNL video is way too real

Mikey Day’s World War I soldier desperately trying to get comfort from home is so real.

I just discovered this SNL sketch and then I had a drink in honor of everyone who got screwed over by Jody…

Not only that, it slyly captures the feeling of being overseas and wanting to connect with people back home. For service members, life gets put on pause during training, deployments, or remote assignments, but for the people we leave behind, well, life goes on.

Sometimes in really weird ways…


The War in Words – SNL

www.youtube.com

The War in Words – SNL

But really, who hasn’t slowly decrypted a cheating lover’s transgressions over time while serving your country overseas?

Claire Foy and Kenan Thompson are just fine in this, but Mikey Day is perfect as the poor soldier really trying to keep it together while literally everything goes to hell around him.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

“In future letters please elaborate…” said everyone deployed ever.

I’ll just put this right here:

Popular Article: What troops really want in their care packages

This isn’t the first “The War in Words” sketch from SNL (Maya Rudolph joined Day in a Civil War sketch and it was also clever) but this World War I version cracks me up. Day plays the little voice inside all of us who just wants to do their duty but feels alarmed when it begins to dawn on them that they’re f***ed even though everyone else around them maintains that everything is fine.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

It’s not fine.

Case in point: Day’s opening line in the Alec Baldwin Drill Sergeant video captures every single cadet I ever saw just…desperately trying to take a training environment seriously:

Drill Sergeant – SNL

www.youtube.com

Drill Sergeant – SNL

I’ll never not laugh at someone standing at attention and yelling out their response to a question.

Give the video a watch and let me know your favorite military sketch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last of his unit, Army vet shares history of firefighting during WWII

“I am 95 years old,” said James Davis. “I am a World War II veteran, and I’m the last of my unit.”

Davis sat stoically in the chair, his head cocked to one side due to his poor hearing. His hands folded over the grip of his walking stick and his experienced eyes were surveying the room of soldiers and the distinguished guests in attendance who had come to hear him speak.

Davis spoke confidently, not fazed by Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan, Hawaii State, Adjutant General and Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, Hawaii State, Deputy Adjutant General, and along with the Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Wingad who attended to hear Davis speak.


“I was in one of the first ten firefighting units created,” Davis said. “We were one of four units to deploy overseas to Africa. I made the landing on D-Day plus one on the southern French coast, but not Normandy.”

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

Davis, a Firefighter Historian, and last surviving member of the 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon, had come to the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 103rd Troop Command Armory in Pearl City, Hawaii to provide a professional development seminar to the 297th Engineer Fire Fighting Team. Davis became the Historian of his unit 30 years ago.

“I was born blind in one eye,” Davis said. “So, I figured the Army wouldn’t want me. But I registered with the selective service as was required by law. A few months later, the Army said, ‘We want you!'” The room laughed, as Davis chuckled.

Davis entered the United States Army as a selective service limited service inductee early of 1943. Due to his limitations, Davis was not permitted to deploy into combat.

Davis would not initially serve as a firefighter for the Army.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers 103D command staff attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“I started in another Corps,” Davis said. “The Army came looking for people like me that had had experience in wild land fires. Which I had had from the National Park Service. There weren’t many with firefighting experience. We had some training and some the job training. That was typically how we learned how to fight fires, ‘OJT.’ Between the end of World War I and Dec. 7, 1941 there was no class of Army firefighter, they didn’t exist.”

Six months later, he was deployed to Noran, Algeria.

“One year later, I’m hitting the beach on D-Day plus one,” Davis said. “We are very proud of what we did, in many respects. We were by in large, selective service inductees with no fire experience.”

Davis would go on to tell the role of the Army firefighter during World War II

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“When we went to shore in France, we had 37 men and five fire trucks,” Davis said. “We had engineer firefighting platoons that fought anything that burned, military or civilian.”

The 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon served a number of roles from supporting engineering missions as well as supporting combat operations. They were able to utilize their equipment to accomplish missions that normal military equipment could not accomplish.

The Army firefighter was also called upon to directly support combat operations on the front lines of the war.

“When we went into the forward areas, we worked behind the artillery,” Davis said. “Because the adversary would be throwing incendiary rounds, trying to burn the guns out, and would set fire in the process.”

Davis’ history and connected to the lineage and the roots of the 297th FFT Command.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers with 297th Engineer Detachment Fire Fighting Team attend a professional development seminar with James G. Davis, Member, Historian and last living member of the 1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, May 4, 2019 at the 103D Troop Command Headquarters, Pearl City, Hawaii.

(Photo by Matthew Foster)

“He loves firefighting,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Odoardi, 103 Troop Command Sergeant Major. “He loved the job. He’s sharing that history with our guys, sharing their roots. In regards to professional development, it was an opportunity for our small firefighter group to learn from somebody who did it in World War II. It was amazing. We have such a diverse set of Military Occupational Specialties, anytime we can capture history from the past, especially from a veteran, it’s invaluable”

“We got to learn our history,” said Staff Sgt. Julius Fajotina, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 297th FFT. “I didn’t think firefighting went back to the Legions of Rome. Knowing where we came from and knowing what we equipment we have now, it’s amazing what firefighter Davis accomplished.”

Davis is the last surviving member of his unit and his story will continue on through the soldiers of the 297th FFT.

“We did what we could, with what we had,” Davis said. “It wasn’t adequate, but we are proud of what we did.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s now easier for Marines with out-of-regs tattoos to get back in the Corps

A new tweak to Marine Corps policy will reduce paperwork for re-enlisting Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve who have tattoos that fall outside regulations.

The change was shared late March 2018 with career planners and recruiters who work with prior-service Marines, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It came via a total force retention system, or TFRS, message, used to share policy updates pertaining to recruiting and retention.


While rules governing when exceptions can be made to tattoo standards aren’t changing, the way cases involving tattoos that fall outside guidelines are processed is.

Previously, a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve looking to go back on active duty would have to complete a tattoo screening request, endorsed by Marine Corps Headquarters, for any undocumented tattoos that don’t comply with policy.

Now, he or she can simply submit a Page 11 administrative counseling form related to the tattoos. Any tattoos that have not been documented during prior service, have not been grandfathered in according to regulations, and fall outside current guidelines require a Page 11 form. This would be created, Carlock said, when a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve visited a recruiter to begin the process for return to active duty.

“They said, ‘Let’s reduce that back-and-forth. Just send me the Page 11,'” Carlock said. “That was what this message was. Let’s streamline it.”

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith)

The change is not, however, the more-lenient tattoo policy that some hoped for.

After receiving the TFRS message, one recruiter made a public post on Facebook announcing newly relaxed policy standards.

“There is no telling how long this is good for but at this moment we can bring “out of regs” Marines to the reserves … this may be the chance to update your training records (promotion) get on some Tricare, make some money, and earn some points towards retirement!!” the recruiter wrote.

That post has since been removed; Carlock said it was erroneous.

“There was no change to tattoo policy. There was a change to the process,” she said.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
U.S. Marine Corps tattoo regulations as of June 2, 2016.
(USMC)

In a December 2017, interview, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com he had no plans to relax the current policy. Marines are still not allowed to get full sleeve tattoos, and there are size limits on tattoos that wrap an arm or leg. Tattoos on the neck, face and hands are also all out.

The most recent tattoo policy change was made in 2016, under Neller. It eased up on some regulations, allowing Marines to get “wedding ring” finger tattoos, and clarified other guidelines. It also gave Marines 120 days to get noncompliant tattoos documented in their personnel file.

Since then, Carlock said, no active-duty Marines have been forced out of service as a result of their tattoos.

“If the recruiters came to me and said, ‘We can’t make mission with this [tattoo] policy,’ I would have to go back and look,” Neller said.

But, he added, that hasn’t happened so far.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face,” Neller said in the December 2017, interview. “We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock-and-roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria claims it captured a US missile from the latest strike

Russian state media said on April 25, 2018, that Syria had “captured” a US Tomahawk cruise missile from the strike on suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites on April 14, 2018 — and they will study it to advance their own missiles.

The Russian claim comes after Syria said it knocked down 71 out of 105 US, UK, and French missiles fired in the strike — a claim that no solid evidence has backed up yet.


In fact, photos from the strike show Syrian air defenses likely fired blindly, at nothing. The Pentagon maintains that no Syrian missiles intercepted any US or allied missiles, and that most of Syria’s air defenses fired after the strike took place.

Also, the Pentagon says Syria fired 40 interceptors, meaning it’s virtually impossible 71 missiles were downed, as it takes at least one interceptor to down a missile.

Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that Russia and Syria likely only have fragments of detonated Tomahawks, and that they wouldn’t be much use.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
A long-range Kalibr cruise missile is launched from the Krasnodar submarine in the Mediterranean, in an image provided by the Russian Defense Ministry press service on May 31, 2017.

“I don’t know whether Russia or Syria have ‘captured’ at Tomahawk although I’m sure they have plenty of fragments to study from weapons which hit their targets,” Bronk told Business Insider.

Unlike other areas of technology where Russia lags far behind the US, Russia’s cruise missiles are actually pretty capable, according to Bronk. Russia has used cruise missiles fired from navy ships and submarines to strike targets in Syria before, and they displayed a similar range and ability in doing so.

Cruise missiles are “not exactly an area where Moscow desperately needs access to Western technology,” said Bronk, though Russia would “would love to examine an intact Block 4 Tomahawk to have a look at the sensor and guidance package nonetheless.”

Overall, if Russia or Syria had actually found an intact Tomahawk missile, that flew at hundreds of miles an hour armed with a large explosive and yet somehow managed to land on the ground without breaking up, they could have shown it off by now to back up their claims that the US strike partly failed.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy says it wants to shrink the Marine Corps by more than 2,000 Marines

The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.


The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.

The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”

The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”

In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.

“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.

“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.

“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.

The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.

Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why a ‘senior lance corporal’ is absolutely a thing

Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”

Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.

No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.


How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)

The “junior” lance corporal

The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.

There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.

Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.

Enter the “senior” lance corporal.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

These guys have been around a minute.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The “senior” lance corporal

When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.

A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.

The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35s wrecked their competition in mock battles

The US Air Force put the F-35 up against “the most advanced weapons systems out there” during the recent Red Flag air combat exercise, and the fight-generation stealth fighters apparently dominated — so much so that even the rookie pilots were crushing it.

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron took to the skies in upgraded F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, integrating into a “Blue Force” consisting of fifth and fourth-generation fighters for a “counter air” mission against a “Red Force” made up of “equally capable” fighters.


During the intense fight, aggressor aircraft blinded many of the “blue” fourth-generation aircraft using electronic attack capabilities, such as those advanced adversaries might employ in battle.

“Even in this extremely challenging environment, the F-35 didn’t have many difficulties doing its job,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, explained in a US Air Force statement summarizing the exercise results.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Novice F-35 pilots were able to step in and save more experienced friendly fourth-generation fighter pilots while racking up kills against simulated near-peer threats.

“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Wood said, recounting his experiences. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.'”

That young pilot took out the enemy aircraft and then went on to pick up three more “kills” during the mission, which lasted for an hour. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Wood added.

The latest iteration of Red Flag — a multinational exercise aimed at training pilots to defeat enemy aircraft, integrated air-defense systems, and electronic and information warfare tactics — was said to be “exponentially more challenging” than past drills, as they were specifically intended to simulate real combat against a more serious threat like Russia or China. The pilots waged simulated war in contested environments characterized by electronic attack, communications jamming, and GPS denial.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Capt. Brad Matherne conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

“Those situations highlight the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35. We’re still able to operate and be successful,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, the 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a US Air Force statement.

The F-35A participated in Red Flag, the service’s top air combat exercise, for the first time two years ago. At that time, the powerful stealth aircraft was only at its initial operating capability, yet it still destroyed the opposition with a 20:1 kill ratio.

This year, pilots were flying F-35s with upgrades offering improved combat capabilities and maneuverability, making the aircraft more lethal in air combat. The Block 3F software upgrades brought the aircraft up to full warfighting capability.

The F-35A is “exceeding our expectations when it comes to not only being able to survive, but to prosecute targets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said Feb. 26, 2019, according to Air Force Times.

The F-35A, an embattled aircraft still overcoming development challenges, is expected to eventually replace the aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What spouses wish their husbands would do (but don’t)

Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener. So goes the old joke. Har Har. But there’s a lot of truth to this vaudevillian knee-slapper: marriage provides an opportunity for each partner to glimpse the other in a new light. This light shows polished surfaces we never knew were there, and also shows some rough or cracked edges that need assistance. And this results in complaints: things they wish they’d realize, things they wish they’d try to do more often, things they do that unknowingly make the other feel lesser or unloved.


And you know what? Listening to complaints is helpful. Really helpful. Because all of us have overlapping tendencies. That’s why we spoke to a variety of wives to find out what they really wished their husbands would stop doing. Most of their complaints boil down issues of emotional intimacy and self-awareness — and can help the rest of us understand what we can do to make life better for our partners. So, consider what these wives said, and look inward. Maybe you’ve been guilty of some of the same infractions. Maybe not. In any case, they’re good to hear regardless to keep yourself in check.

1. I wish he’d give himself more credit

“I wish my husband would give himself more credit. He’s an amazing dad, and an amazing husband – an amazing person, really. But, he’s got a confidence issue, and usually reverts to being extremely humble when he’s praised or when people compliment him. I think he’s afraid to let it sink in. I mean, I know he’s afraid to let it sink in. It’s something we’ve talked about. I admire his humility, I just wish he would pat himself on the back every once in a while for being so great. He deserves it.” – Jasmine, 36, Mobile, AL

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

(Flicker / 401kcalculator.org)

2. I wish he’d include me in our financial discussions more

“My husband is very secretive about finances. We have joint finances, of course, but he also has a stock portfolio that he doesn’t share with anyone besides his broker, and maybe a friend or two. It’s not the money aspect, really. It’s more the secrecy – I wish he would tell me more about it, because it’s a part of his life. If I ask, he just says, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” And that’s great and reassuring. But it still makes me feel like he doesn’t trust me, or doesn’t think I’m smart enough to understand the whole thing.” – Christine, 63, Chautauqua, NY

3. I wish he’d realize that he doesn’t have to explain everything to me

“I trust my husband – I wish he knew that. He always feels like he has to explain things to me. Like why he was late getting home, or who he just got off the phone with in the other room. I’m thrilled that he’s so honest, but I do trust him. It makes me feel like his mom. I don’t need to know every little detail about his day in order to know that he’s a good man. If it’s something he’s excited to share, that’s awesome. But if he’s just, like, providing an alibi, it makes me feel more like he’s afraid of me than in love with me.” – Jen, 37, West Palm Beach, FL

4. I wish he knew that just saying “sorry” sometimes isn’t enough

“I wish my husband knew that just because he says, ‘I’m sorry’, it doesn’t make the hurtful things he said or did go away. I believe him when he says he’s sorry, but the words we exchanged during the fight, or the hurtful thing he did – or didn’t do – just keeps replaying over and over in my head.” – Kayla, 29, Boston, MA

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

(Flickr / J Stimp)

5. I wish he would not make me feel as though I was talking at him

“Eye contact. When I’m talking to him about something important, I wish my husband would make eye contact with me. He does, but it’s usually only for a second, and then he goes back to looking at the floor, or off in the distance. I know he can hear me, but I don’t feel like he’s listening. And it makes me feel like he’s either disinterested or terrified – neither of which I want him to be. I just want us to be able to look at each other while we talk to each other, instead of me talking at him.” – Mary, 54, Cleveland, OH

6. I wish he’d realize he’s not as handy as he thinks


“My husband thinks he’s way more handy than he really is. His father is a total ‘Mr. Fix-It’. But my husband just didn’t inherit those genes. He’ll try to fix something around the house, and it’ll usually end up being a temporary solve until it breaks again. I wish he’d just shelve his pride and admit that we should call a pro to fix the problem correctly. I don’t care that he’s not ‘Mr. Fix-It’. Like, at all. And he doesn’t need to try and impress me – that part was cute at first, but now it’s just become annoying. And expensive.” – Zulma, 46, Phoenix, AZ

7. I wish he’d stop being so defensive

“When I come to my husband with a ‘complaint’, I wish he’d respond less defensively. When I say something’s bothering me, my goal isn’t to put him in the hot seat – it’s to try and figure out a solution that works for all of us. But, he immediately starts talking about how horrible he is for what he did, or forgot to do, or whatever. That’s not what I want. I just want to figure it out! Together!” – Erin, 37, Vancouver, Canada

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

(Flickr / Buscando ando)

8. I wish he would try to woo me again


“My husband used to play his guitar all the time when we were dating. He was trying to woo me, and impress me. He doesn’t play a lot anymore, if ever. It makes me feel like he’s stopped trying – like now that we’re married, with kids, he’s ‘got’ me. I imagine this complaint is similar to a lot of other women’s, but it’s very specifically his guitar in my case. He’s really good! I enjoy listening to him play. It’s not even the “trying to impress me” thing, really. I just know he loves his guitar, and I miss that part of him. When I ask him to play, he just shies away. It makes me sad that I have to practically beg him to play, when it used to be something he’d surprise me with.” – Emily, 40, New York, NY

9. I wish he’d stop being a martyr and just quit his job

“I wish my husband would quit his job. He hates it. Every day he comes home, he’s miserable. But, he’s afraid to quit. It’s not worth it, though – the stress this job puts on him. I don’t care if we have to tighten our budget for a while, so he can find something else. His happiness is more important to me then a temporary lack of security. Part of me feels like he enjoys being a martyr, but that’s stupid. His mood affects everyone in our house. Me and the kids. When he’s unhappy, it makes us unhappy, too. And it’s all because of this awful job. I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to take care of us, but not at this cost. He just needs to grow a pair and quit. He’d be so much happier.” – Sarah, 29, Columbus, OH

10. I wish he’d argue with me more

“When my husband and I are mad at each other, we go silent. Well, he goes silent. I wish he would argue with me more. It sounds silly, but I really do. I think arguing shows that you care about the problem enough to have an opinion. Staying quiet just makes everything so ambiguous. Show me some passion. I’m a big girl – if you think I’m being an idiot, tell me. If you think I’m wrong, tell me. Yelling is talking, and I’d rather talk like that than not talk at all.” – Meg, 32, Woodside, NY

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

popular

Paul McCartney wants kids to live on a ‘Green Submarine’

‘Yellow Submarines’ are so 1966.

All aboard Paul McCartney’s Green Submarine!

McCartney, who used to play an instrument or two and sing in a fairly popular band called the Beatles, authored the children’s picture book, Hey, Grandude, in 2019. It shot to #1 on the best seller list, with more than 300,000 copies snapped up around the globe. Now, the grandfather of eight has penned a sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine, due out in September. Like its predecessor, Grandude’s Green Submarine will be published by Random House Books for Young Readers and feature illustrations by artist Kathryn Durst.

Grandude’s inventions are the stuff of legend, and his new green submarine doesn’t disappoint,” reads the synopsis on the Penguin Random House website. “In fact, it flies as well as submerges! Grandude whisks the grandkids off on another adventure, but he and the Chillers soon find themselves in a pickle. Suddenly, it’s Nandude to the rescue! Nandude is an explorer as courageous as Grandude, with an amazing accordion-ship to boot! Between Grandude’s magic compass and Nandude’s magical music, everyone arrives home safely. But not before enjoying a parade, dancing rainforest animals, and a narrow escape from a grabby octopus. This tale is perfect for little explorers and Paul McCartney fans alike!”

“I’m really happy with how ‘Hey Grandude!’ was received, as this was a very personal story for me, celebrating Grandudes everywhere and their relationships and adventures with their grandchildren,” McCartney said in a statement. “I love that it has become a book read to grandkids at bedtime all around the world. I always said if people liked the first book and there was an appetite for more, I would write some further adventures for Grandude—so he’s back and this time with his special invention, Grandude’s green submarine!”

Grandude’s Green Submarine will rise to the surface in the middle of a typically prolific time for the British icon.

He dropped his latest album, McCartney III, in December, and that will be followed on April 16 by McCartney III Imagined, with such artists as Phoebe Bridgers, Josh Homme, Blood Orange, St. Vincent, and Beck covering or remixing songs from the album. Then, on August 27, Disney will unveil the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, which will present a wildly different look at the making of the Let It Be album than the eponymous 1970 film did. And, on November 2, Macca will release another book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.

Grandude’s Green Submarine is available now to pre-order.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things you should know about Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

Marines are known for their proficiency in fighting, but not many people know that they’ve developed their own hand-to-hand fighting system, called the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. MCMAP combines several different styles with close-quarters combat techniques and Marine Corps philosophies to create something new.


While many, varying opinions exist on the program, it’s important to understand one simple thing: it’s only as effective as its wielder. In short, if you weren’t any good at fighting before you learned MCMAP, you’re still not going to be much good after you earn that tan belt.

So, for all of you who have no idea what MCMAP is all about, here are the broad strokes:

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

A Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer demonstrates an arm bar.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

It’s comprised of several different fighting styles. 

Seventeen styles, to be exact. That’s right, seventeen different fighting styles cultivated from around the world were pulled together to create MCMAP. It includes techniques borrowed from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Krav Maga to name a few. Keep in mind, however, specific techniques were pulled from each and then adapted to be applicable for Marines in combat.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

A green belt with a tan Martial Arts Instructor tab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan M. Bowyer)

There are five belt levels

Before you walk across the parade deck at MCRD, you will earn your entry-level, tan belt. The other belt levels are, in ascending order, gray, green, brown, and black. A black belt, as in other martial arts, has varying degrees — 6, in the case of MCMAP. While most of the belt levels can be the subject of mockery, we highly recommend you don’t mess with a black belt.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Sometimes you get a lecture, sometimes you run across base.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)

You learn about more than just fighting

MCMAP is also about studying warrior ethos and understanding that fighting is not just throwing a better punch than your opponent. To quote Marine Corps Order 1500.54A, which officially established the program in 2002,

“MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence.”
How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

If you’re a grunt, you’ll likely be forced to ground-fight in rain.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Infantry Marines are generally required to earn a green belt

Or at least a gray belt. Typically, if a commander sees there’s open space in the training schedule and the armory is too busy to make you stand in line for 3 hours, you’ll be ordered to practice MCMAP. Most grunts earn their gray belt by the end of their first pre-deployment training cycle. Some are required to earn their green by the end of their second.

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

The red tab indicates an MAIT.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)

There are different types of instructors

There are Martial Arts Instructors then there are Martial Arts Instructor-Trainers. The main difference is a standard MAI can train other Marines to “belt up,” while an MAIT can train a Marine, whose belt level is at least green, to become an instructor.

To become an MAI, you must attend the grueling and unforgiving Martial Arts Instructor Course. To become an MAIT, you must attend the even more painful, more advanced Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer Course. Either way, your soul will never be the same.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information