Navajo Code Talkers – U.S. Marines that Helped Win WWII
On January 16, 2016, Alfred James Peaches, 90, passed from this life into the next in a Flagstaff, Arizona hospital.
Peaches was part of the 6th Marine Division during WWII. He was from Arizona, and is survived by wife Jeanette, two sons, two daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The service of men like him made the difference in the battles of the Pacific during WWII. They were United States Marines…Windtalkers.
Windtalker or Code Talker – a code name used for the Navajo who used a specialized communications code based on their native language.
Alfred Peaches was a hero. Along with his fellow Code Talkers in “The Navajo School,”(officially the 382nd Platoon), the Navajo Nations’ USMC warriors saved countless American lives in WWII. Japanese cryptographers, many of whom had been educated in the United States, were never able to crack the Navajo code.
Respect was not bestowed, it was earned
None of us can understand what the Navajo warriors went through in the beginning of their Marine careers. Many had never been off the reservation, and were not received with open arms at first. Marine leadership were not used to the tough Native Americans.
But respect began to grow within the Marine Corps leadership, as the recruits handled heat and hardship well, often better than their white counterparts.
Brave, skilled, efficient
Though the numbers vary in different publications, the extreme classification of the Navajo Code Talkers program kept the actual number secret. Estimates vary from 420- 540.
“Over 540 Navajo served in the Marines during World War II, nearly 300 served in the field as code and communication experts. Navajo code talkers operated in all six Marine divisions, and served in every major Pacific battle between 1942 and 1945.
At the battle of Iwo Jima, a team of 6 Navajo Code Talkers from the 5th Marine Division transmitted and received nearly 1,000 messages in 48 hours.
Alfred Peaches was in the 6th Marine Division, which was formed overseas at Guadalcanal in 1944. They saw action in the battle of Okinawa, and the unit received a Presidential Citation. The Division was disbanded in 1946 in China.
According to the book, Native American Code Talker in WWII by Ed Gilbert, senior officers were unaware of the code, so a PFC would have to tell a Colonel that he was not authorized to view a message – because of the secrecy involved.
Native Americans could be shot at by their own brothers in arms if they were mistaken for Japanese. Code Talkers often became “runners,” having to deliver messages directly to other commanders.
The life of a Navajo Code Talker during the war was not an easy one. “Heroes” are often defined by acts on the battlefield. But it was men like Peaches, and all of the Navajo Code Talkers, who gave the United States the advantage in the war in the Pacific. They are and were, by any historical standard, heroes.