NSA Bestows Highest Honor to Native Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, operating a portable radio set in the South Pacific, 1943

Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, operating a portable radio set in the South Pacific, 1943

Award Will Be Displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., will host an award ceremony Tuesday, April 8, at 11 a.m. for the 2013 Cryptologic Hall of Honor award given by the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. One plaque will reside at NSA headquarters and a second will be on display at the museum. This will be the first time in agency history that the award is given to a group and not an individual.

Speakers at the event Speakers at the event include Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI Director and Trumbull D. Soule, deputy chief of staff at the NSA.

During World War I and World War II, hundreds of American Indians joined the U.S. armed forces and used words from their traditional tribal languages as weapons. Tribes that participated include the Assiniboine, Cherokee, Chippewa, Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi, Kiowa, Menominee, Muscogee (Creek), Navajo, Oneida, Pawnee and Sac & Fox. The U.S. military asked them to develop secret battle communications based on their languages—and America’s enemies never deciphered the coded messages they sent. “Code Talkers,” as they came to be known after World War II, are 20th-century American Indian warriors and heroes who significantly aided the victories of the U.S. and its allies.

The award, given only since 1999, is bestowed to those special few who have changed the course of war, thus securing America’s freedom and place in history. The standards are high for induction into this great hall. From breaking the main Japanese naval operational code, in time to win the battle of Midway, the turning point in the war in the Pacific, to the outstanding cryptanalysis of the VENONA program, which identified numerous Soviet agents in the United States, to the sophisticated direction-finding helped track Soviet intentions when the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened nuclear war, to breakthrough achievements in the development of the super computer—code makers and code breakers were there. Seventy-six awards grace the Hall of Honor at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

“Native Americans have fought for this nation in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the museum. “They have served and continue to enlist at a higher percentage than any other ethnic group. The Native American Code Talkers epitomize the strength of multiculturalism that makes America great. Their contributions saved thousands upon thousands of lives.”

The award ceremony can be seen via live webcast atwww.nmai.si.edu/webcasts.

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