Code Talker Study Guide

Code Talker By Joseph Bruchac

Navajo Indians played a critical role in the World War II Pacific Theatre, sending coded messages back and forth across the Pacific using their native language to prevent outside understanding. They were present in some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and they saved countless American lives. Despite this amazing contribution to one of the most important wars of our country's history, no one knew of their story for nearly twenty years afterward, because it was classified.

"Code Talker" is a fictional tale of Ned Begay, a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy who joins the ranks of the Code Talkers. Ned detested life in the Catholic mission school he was sent to, because they detested Navajo culture and especially Navajo language. He was diminished and his culture was put down in nearly every conceivable way.

When World War II broke out, however, the Navajos - who were once victims of a genocidal U.S. military effort in the 1860s - were recruited by the Marine Corps, who wanted to use that oft-maligned native language to create an unbreakable code. Navajo, it turns out, is the hardest Native American languages to learn, and only native Navajos speak it with complete fluency.

Ned joined a select group of Navajo code talkers to help create the one code that the Japanese would never be able to break. In "Code Talker", Ned tells his story to his grandchildren, relating his experiences in Catholic school, military training, and then at war in the Pacific, with specific settings in Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

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