By Janel States James
Formal recognition is on the way for Navajo Nation Code Talkers, after President Clinton signed legislation December 21 to grant them Congressional Medals of Honor.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mex.) introduced the legislation in April to authorize the president to award Congressional Gold Medals to the original 29 Navajos who served as Marine Corps Radio Operators and to bestow Congressional Silver Medals on other Navajos who followed, also serving as Code Talkers.
The Code Talkers were instrumental in the U.S. victory against the Japanese in World War II, creating an unbreakable code. “The Code Talkers are widely recognized as having saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers,” said Bingaman.
But because of the immense value of the code, the project remained classified until the late 1960s, when technological advances made the once unbreakable code breakable. Until that time, the contribution of the Navajo soldiers went unrecognized. “It’s time to give [the code talkers] the recognition they deserve, and that’s exactly what these medals are meant to do,” said Bingaman.
No date has been set for the award ceremony, according to Merle Pete of the Navajo Nation’s Office of the President and Vice President. Pete said that they are working with Sen. Bingaman’s office and the U.S. Mint on the production of the medals, which should be pressed by early summer, and on the logistics of the ceremony itself.