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At the onset of the war, the U.S. found itself vulnerable to Japanese intelligence specialists who used their English-speaking soldiers to intercept the messages issued by the U.S. military. Each time the military devised a code, Japanese intelligence experts deciphered it. As a result they not only learned which actions U.S. forces would take before they carried them out but gave the troops bogus missions to confuse them.
To prevent the Japanese from intercepting subsequent messages, the U.S. military developed highly intricate codes that could take more than two hours to decrypt or encrypt. This was far from an efficient way to communicate. But World War I veteran Philip Johnston would change that by suggesting that the U.S. military develop a code based on the Navajo language.
World War II did not mark the first time the U.S. military developed a code based on an indigenous language. In World War I, Choctaw speakers served as code talkers. But Philip Johnston, a missionary’s son who grew up on the Navajo reservation, knew that a code based on the Navajo language would be especially difficult to break. For one, the Navajo language was largely unwritten at the time and many words in the language have different meanings depending on context. Once Johnston demonstrated to the Marine Corps how effective a Navajo-based code would be in thwarting intelligence breaches, the Marines set out to sign up Navajos as radio operators.
In 1942, 29 Navajo soldiers ranging in age from 15 to 35 years old collaborated to create the first U.S. military code based on their indigenous language. It started off with a vocabulary of about 200 but tripled in quantity by the time World War II ended. The Navajo Code Talkers could pass messages in as few as 20 seconds. According to the official Navajo Code Talkers website, indigenous words that sounded like military terms in English made up the code.
“The Navajo word for turtle meant ‘tank,’ and a dive-bomber was a ‘chicken hawk.’ To supplement those terms, words could be spelled out using Navajo terms assigned to individual letters of the alphabet—the selection of the Navajo term being based on the first letter of the Navajo word’s English meaning. For instance, ‘Wo-La-Chee’ means ‘ant,’ and would represent the letter ‘A.’”The code was so complex that not even native Navajo speakers comprehended it. “When a Navajo listens to us, he wonders what in the world we’re talking about,” Keith Little, the late code talker, explained to news station My Fox Phoenix in 2011.
The code also proved unique because the Navajo soldiers weren’t allowed to write it down once on frontlines of the war. The soldiers functioned essentially as “living codes.” During the first two days of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the code talkers transmitted 800 messages with no mistakes. Their efforts played a key role in the U.S. emerging from the Battle of Iwo Jima as well as the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Okinawa victoriously. “We saved a lot of lives…, I know that we did,” Little said.
The Navajo Code Talkers may have been World War II heroes, but the public didn’t realize it because the code created by the Navajos remained a top military secret for decades following the war. Finally in 1968, the military declassified the code, but many believed that the Navajos didn’t receive the honors befitting of war heroes. In April 2000, Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico sought to change that when he introduced a bill authorizing the U.S. president to award gold and silver congressional medals to the Navajo Code Talkers. In December 2000, the bill went into effect.
“It has taken too long to properly recognize these soldiers, whose achievements have been obscured by twin veils of secrecy and time,” Bingaman said. “…I introduced this legislation – to salute these brave and innovative Native Americans, to acknowledge the great contribution they made to the Nation at a time of war, and to finally give them their rightful place in history.”
In 2014, Billy Mills celebrated the 50th anniversary of his gold medal win by starting Dreamstarter, a grant program to jump start the dreams of Native youth.
Billy was awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama, for his work with Running Strong. The Presidential Citizens Medal is the second highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes individuals "who [have] performed exemplary deeds or services for his or her country or fellow citizens."
Barfoot advanced through a minefield, took out three enemy machine gun emplacements with hand grenades and expert fire from his Thompson submachine gun.
He then picked up a bazooka, took on and destroyed one of the three advancing Mark VI tanks that German commanders ordered in to spearhead their fierce heavy-armored counter attack on Barfoot's platoon position in an unsuccessful effort to retake their lost machinegun positions.
As the tank crew members dismounted their disabled tank, Sgt. Barfoot killed three of the German soldiers outright with his tommy gun.
Barfoot then continued further into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech.
While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted two of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety.
Barfoot is credited with capturing and bringing back 17 German prisoners of war (POWs) to his platoon position that day.
His heroic efforts earned then Technical Sergeant Barfoot a U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, and an honorable place in American history. He went on to become a highly decorated colonel.
He died March 2, 2012 at the age of 92.
A stint as a professional horse trainer overlapped with the start of his acting career at The American Indian Theater Company in Tulsa in 1983. His first professional stage debut was in Black Elk Speaks, and his first feature film was The Trial of Standing Bear.
He next starred in two memorable movies. These were the blockbuster Dances with Wolves, which won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, and The Last of the Mohicans, in which Mr. Studi memorably incarnated Magua .
He shared a Western Heritage Award with the cast and crew of Walter Hill’s Geronimo: An American Legend, in which he played the title role. He has since starred in, The New World, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which won 6 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Made For Television Movie.
Movies including Coyote Waits, Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time, and Avatar are just a few on a long list of Studi's acting achievements.
An internationally recognized expert in indigenous languages, he also worked as a language consultant on several movies, including Avatar and the documentary We Shall Remain. For the Cherokee Bilingual/Cross Cultural Education Center, he authored the children’s books The Adventures of Billy Bean and The Further Adventures of Billy Bean.
In 2006, Mr. Studi was honored with the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Golden Boot Award. His passion and multi-faceted background for his powerful character portrayals have forever changed a Hollywood stereotype.
Over the past two decades Robby has used the international languages of music and film to help shift the paradigm and bridge the gap between Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the environment through his non-profit organization, Native Children's Survival.
Robby's directorial film debut Makoce Wakan: Sacred Earth first aired on VH1 in 1993. "Feedback has been more than positive: Congratulations on a very successful show that has generated more viewer calls than any other show to date." - MTV Networks
Robby's music pictures broadcast on MTV and VH1 introduced Native Rock music to the music television generation. His Native American stereotype-breaking public services announcements as part of MTV's Free Your Mind campaign won the Industry's prestiges CableAce Award. His politicized rockumentary films broadcast nationally and internationally, catapulted him into an arena of his own making.
Robby has shared the stage with multi-platinum musical artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, and Cat Stevens, and with such dignitaries as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Former Presidents Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Shimon Peres, to name a few. Over the years, Robby has received multiple awards and cultural honors in acknowledgment of his work.
The Encyclopedia of North American Indians Past to Present states, "Red Thunder has commanded the largest audience of any contemporary Indian music group."
The Los Angeles Times Magazine speaks of Robby's work as, "changing the world and the world of music."
News From Indian Country says, "Red Thunder, formed by Romero in 1989, continues to be one of the most popular musical groups known in "Indian Country" and around the world."
Robby is the founder of Eagle Thunder Enterprises (ETE), an artist-owned and operated independent Indigenous company consisting of four divisions: 1) Film, 2) Music, 3) Publishing, and 4) Production. ETE has reached millions of listeners, viewers and customers from all walks of life through global releases, television broadcasts and live concerts, musical tours and events.
Robby's single Iron Horse, a collaboration with two time Grammy Winner Robert Mirabal, commemorates the Summer of the Red Willow June 10, 2014, historic name-change of Kit Carson Park to Red Willow Park by the Town Of Taos. The Summer of the Red Willow Change the Name Public Service Announcement premiered at the 32nd Annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow held at the University of New Mexico Arena (The Pit) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and on the world-wide-web at PowWows.com. www.powwows.com on April 26, 2015.
"When the opportunity presented itself, I suggested that the Town Of Taos change the name of Kit Carson Park to Red Willow Park to honor the people of the Red Willow. I made the suggestion to kindle a conversation about one-sided perspectives that are more often then not 'his-story - not history'... and I'm certain the curtain has fallen on the misconceptions, stereotypes and derogatory names exploited in history books and in sports and POP cultural about Native Peoples." - Robby Romero
The new Alter-Native single Iron Horse written by Romero and Mirabal, dropped August 12, 2014, on iTunes, Amazon and other leading music stores worldwide. Iron Horse is the first single from the upcoming EP scheduled to drop in 2016.
Having always wanted to be a pilot, Herrington joined the Navy and received his commission from Aviation Officer Candidate School in March of 1984 and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1985. He has logged over 3,300 flight hours in over 30 different types of aircraft. In 1995 Herrington received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.
NASA selected Herrington in 1996 as an astronaut and he reported to the Johnson Space Center in August of that year. He has served as a member of the Astronaut Support Personnel team responsible for Shuttle launch preparations and post-landing operations. Herrington was a member of the sixteenth Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station (November 23-December 7, 2002). He was the first Native American to walk in space. Herrington honored his Native American heritage during that walk by carrying six eagle feathers, a braid of sweet grass, two arrowheads and the Chickasaw nation’s flag.
Commander Herrington is a life member of the Association of Naval Aviation, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Alumni Association, a Sequoyah Fellow and a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He and his wife Debra have two children.