As I was marching in Flanders
A ghost kept step with me—
Kept step with me and chuckled
And muttered ceaselessly:
“Once I too marched in Flanders,
The very spit of you,
And just a hundred years since,
To fall at Waterloo.”
“They buried me in Flanders
Upon the field of blood,
And long I’ve lain forgotten
Deep in the Flemmish mud.”
“But now you march in Flanders,
The very spit of me;
To the ending of the day’s march
I’ll bear you company.”
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, 1915
Here’s the complete video from the History Channel’s documentary of “Snipers~Bullet Proof” (1:28 in length) I wanted to post “Snipers deadliest missions”, but it was unavailable on YouTube. I will post it if/when it is up again. Meantime, enjoy “Bullet Proof”
Being born and raised in New Mexico, I knew of these men through the stories told by their children/grandchildren. They hold a special place in my heart. The Navajo people are some of the best you will ever meet.
IT IS A GREAT AMERICAN STORY that is still largely unknown—the story of a group of young Navajo men who answered the call of duty, who performed a service no one else could, and in the process became great warriors and patriots. Their unbreakable code saved thousands of lives and helped end WWII.
Background and Bootcamp:
DURING THE EARLY MONTHS OF WWII, Japanese intelligence experts broke every code the US forces devised. They were able to anticipate American actions at an alarming rate. With plenty of fluent English speakers at their disposal, they sabotaged messages and issued false commands to ambush Allied troops. To combat this, increasingly complex codes were initiated. At Guadalcanal, military leaders finally complained that sending and receiving these codes required hours of encryption and decryption—up to two and a half hours for a single message. They rightly argued the military needed a better way to communicate.
When Phillip Johnston, a civilian living in California learned of the crisis, he had the answer. As the son of a Protestant missionary, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was one of less than 30 outsiders fluent in their difficult language. He realized that since it had no alphabet and was almost impossible to master without early exposure, the Navajo language had great potential as an indecipherable code. After an impressive demonstration to top commanders, he was given permission to begin a Navajo Code Talker test program.
Their elite unit was formed in early 1942 when the first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were recruited by Johnston. Although the code was modified and expanded throughout the war, this first group was the one to conceive it. Accordingly, they are often referred to reverently as the “original 29”. Many of these enlistees were just boys; most had never been away from home before. Often lacking birth certificates, it was impossible to verify ages. After the war it was discovered that recruits as young as 15 and as old as 35 had enlisted. Age inspite of, they easily bore the rigors of basic training, thanks to their upbringing in the southwestern desert.
The Code and Code Talking
THE CODE THEY CREATED AT CAMP PENDLETON was as ingenious as it was effective. It originated as approximately 200 terms—growing to over 600 by war’s end—and could communicate in 20 seconds what took coding machines of the time 30 minutes to do. It consisted of native terms that were associated with the military terms they resembled. For example, 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 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”. In this way the Navajo Code Talkers could quickly and concisely communicate with each other in a way even uninitiated Navajos could not understand.
Once trained, the Navajo Code Talkers were sent to Marine divisions in the Pacific theater of WWII. Despite some initial skepticism by commanding officers, they quickly gained a distinguished reputation for their remarkable abilities. In the field, they were not allowed to write any part of the code down as a reference. They became living codes, and even under harried battle conditions, had to rapidly recall every word with utmost precision or risk hundreds or thousands of lives. In the battle for Iwo Jima, in the first 48 hours alone, they coded over 800 transmissions with perfect accuracy. Their heroism is widely acknowledged as the lynchpin of victory in the pivotal conflict.
Learn of the welcome our Code Talkers received when they returned home from the war here. If you’re interested in supporting their cause, the links are on the link as well. Thank you
Full Metal Jacket
These are all gif images. Click on the picture to go to view the media file.
Over the next few posts of MILspeak I’ll share lingo from the US and a few from our comrades, with some dating back to the 18th century.
Waging war is a risky, all-encompassing endeavor physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It displays humankind at its best and at its worst, and the war fighter’s slang reflects the bitter, terrible, and inspiring all of it. A quick scan of these phrases illustrates the spectrum: disciplined bravado provides the glitz and glamour; earned camaraderie, the sincerity and warmth; irony, the realist’s edge; scorn, the punishing barb; and insistent vulgarity, a rowdy,leveling earthiness. A little verbal bravado and swagger has genuine utility. Hollywood bravado is little more than chest thumping bluster, but seasoned vets know that disciplined bravado indicates confidence and courage. Physical and moral courage and the confidence they create are essential warrior virtues. But God—or the first sergeant—help the fake macho and especially the “REMF,” “fobbit,” or “suit” who talks the talk but hasn’t walked the walk.
**NOTE: There are terms in these lists that could be considered NSFW.
Definition of Zulu Time or GMT
The Department of the Navy serves as the country’s official timekeeper, with the Master Clock facility at the
U.S. Naval Observatory,Washington, D.C. “Zulu” time is that which you might know as “GMT” (Greenwich Mean Time). Our natural concept of time is linked to the rotation of the earth and we define the length of the day as the 24 hours it takes the earth to spin once on its axis.
As time pieces became more accurate and communication became global, there needed to be a point from which all other world times were based. Since Great Britain was the world’s foremost maritime power when the concept of latitude and longitude came to be, the starting point for designating longitude was the “prime meridian” which is zero degrees and runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in Greenwich, England, southeast of central London. As a result, when the concept of time zones was introduced, the “starting” point for calculating the different time zones was/is at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. When it is noon at the observatory, it is five hours earlier (under Standard Time) in Washington, D.C.; six hours earlier in Chicago; seven hours earlier in Denver; and, eight hours earlier in Los Angeles.