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Navajo 'code talkers' honored on Veterans Day

Veterans Day parade in New York recognizes Navajo code talkers, whose secret vocabulary never was broken and who helped win World War II in the Pacific.

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Navajo Code Talkers operate a radio in this undated photo.

Courtesy of the Navajo Code Talker Foundation

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It was the one code the Japanese couldn't crack.

Based on the Navajo language, the code helped the US communicate clandestinely during World War II – and ultimately contributed to victory in the Pacific theater.

But it wasn't a direct translation of Navajo, says Keith Little, a former United States Marine and Navajo Code Talker. Along with other code talkers, he relayed messages in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, and Iwo Jima.

On Wednesday, Little reunited with 12 other Navajo Code Talkers for the New York Veterans Day parade. Together they rode a float and waved to crowds that cheered them as they passed.

"The reception was good, and it kind of makes you feel good that you're someone different," Little said by phone after the parade.

That attention has been a long time coming for the code talkers. For more than 20 years after they helped the allies win World War II, the code – considered an invaluable military asset – was classified. The code talkers were not formally honored by the US government until 2001, nearly 60 years after the code's creation, when they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Now, due largely to that long silence, the remaining code talkers worry their story will die with their aging ranks.

"We want to build our legacy and our history," says Little.

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