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Old 04-10-2014, 13:16 PM
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GyBill GyBill is offline
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One of the last surviving Native Americans who used their tribal languages......

One of the last surviving Native Americans who used their tribal languages to outwit the enemy during the Second World War has died in Oklahoma, aged 96.

Edmond Harjo, a member of the Seminole Nation who was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his wartime service in November, suffered a heart attack on March 31.

Harjo had been part of a group known as Windtalkers, who used their native language as code, when he served in Normandy, France.

At the ceremony in Washington DC last year, to recognize the efforts of 33 tribes, House Speaker John Boehner recalled how a chance encounter in France led to Harjo's amazing war service.

He explained how Harjo, who was part of the 195th Field Artillery Battalion, was walking through an orchard in southern France in 1944 when he heard a fellow soldier singing in the Creek dialect.

A captain later heard the two soldiers talking, Boehner said, and immediately put them to work on opposite ends of a radio.

'Edmond and his brothers were at Normandy. They were on Iwo Jima. They mobilized the simplest weapon - language - to thwart the fiercest enemy free people have ever known,' Boehner said.

'And they made a difference. After serving with honor, they did the honorable thing. They kept their service a secret. Even to those that they loved.'

Richard Harjo said there was some controversy following the ceremony because his uncle had been under the impression the medal was being presented to him, not the tribe.

But the ceremony and honor still meant a lot to him, he added.

'He sought to do what was right and wanted that same recognition in return,' Richard Harjo said.

He added that his uncle, a teacher and classical pianist, 'was a distinct character'.

Harjo, like all code talkers, worked on the radio to transmit and receive messages.

The Native Americans were mainly used by the Marines, who had created an unbreakable code created from the Navajo language by the tribe members in their ranks.

The war-time efforts of Harjo and his fellow Native American code talkers inspired the 2002 Nicholas Cage film Windtalkers, which revealed the lengths the U.S. Marines went to protect their secret weapon.

The skills and code talking ability of the Native Americans was so essential to the war effort that they were highly protected to prevent anything happening to them.

A Japanese intelligence chief said after the war that although his forces could decipher codes used by the Army and Air Force, they remained unable to break the Marine code.

Part of the success of the code was the complexities of the Navajo language, which didn't have an alphabet and was understood by fewer than 30 people outside of the tribes.

The codebreakers were assigned to transmit details of troop movements, tactics and messages over radio.

The code was considered so valuable that it was kept classified for years, and the Native Americans who worked as codetalkers weren't recognized for their war efforts until 1992.

In 2013 Harjo and other codetalkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Although he never married or had children, Harjo had many nieces and nephews who gathered to remember him at a service on April 4.
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