Philip Johnston was an
engineer living in California at the start of World War II.
He was the son of a Navajo missionary. He was not a Navajo, but grew up on the
Navajo Reservation. He knew all of the Navajo customs and spoke the language
fluently. He was the person who had the concept of using the complex Navajo language for communications to help defeat the
Japanese in World War II.
Philip Johnston was a veteran of World War I, and heard how eight Choctaw Indians had sent messages to each other in their native tongue during a battle against the Germans at the end of World War I. These few messages had helped to win the battle, since the Germans had no idea of what was being said. He knew that the military were searching for a new secret code to use against the Japanese. He thought that the Navajo language would be the perfect answer. Mr. Johnston presented his idea to Major General Clayton B. Vogel, USMC, Commanding General of the Pacific Fleet. General Vogel allowed Mr. Johnston to give a demonstration at Camp Elliot in California using a few Navajos who resided in California. The demonstration was so successful that Major Vogel recommended the recruitment into the Marine Corps of at least 200 Navajos for the Code Talker Program. Almost immediately, 29 Navajos were recruited, and they started developing their unbreakable code.
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