Featured speaker for the Computer Museum, August 15, 2002, Thursday evening is Joe Morris, Sr., Reservation born Dine'/Navajo, who will describe his 1944-46 experiences as a code talker on Guadalcanal, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa, and Tinstao, China.

There is an overflow turnout at the Colman College Computer Museum main hall of exhibits. In this group of enthusiastic supporters are Marine Veterans, Electronic Industry professionals, students and tribal people supportive of the recognition of our Tribal Warriors. Following Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps and return to the reservation, Morris worked for the Railroad until his retirement. He and his wife Charlotte live in Daggett, CA.

Our speaker was born in 1926 and raised on the Navajo reservation at Indian Wells, Ariz. He fudged on his age to obtain a draft registration card and join the Marines in 1944 at the age of 17. After passing physical and written tests in Phoenix, he was sent for basic training to the San Diego Marine Recruit Depot, then assigned to the Navajo Communications School at Camp Pendleton. There he was trained for five months in code communication skills and terms for military hardware, battlefield sites, and key officials.

Morris and around 420 other Navajo code talkers served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II to fulfill the need the Allied forces had to communicate sensitive information across the thousands of miles of ocean in the Pacific Theater. Morris and the others used a code based on the Navajo language to transmit vital communications with remarkable speed and accuracy - using the only battlefield code never broken by the enemy. The code was especially difficult since Navajo is a spoken language with no reference to the terms that needed to be communicated.
Furthermore, for security reasons, the 500 or so terms in the code were not written down, but needed to be memorized to be recalled at a moment's notice. The Navajos solved that by adapting traditional words to suit their new purposes. A submarine, for example, was called an "iron fish," and a helicopter was a "hummingbird." Letters were also used to spell out terms, and to confuse the enemy further, the most commonly used consonants and vowels in English were assigned several Navajo letters. Because of such complexities, Navy cryptologists testing the code tried in vain to decipher it. Even Navajos untrained in the code couldn't break it. After serving as a code talker in some of the hottest battles in the Pacific Theater, Morris was discharged in August 1946. His awards include combat ribbons for the Pacific Theater and China Occupation medals. He also holds a Rifle Expert medal, as well as certificates of appreciation from both the President of the United States and the California Senate.

This exhibit caters to general history buffs and Code Talker fans alike, with as much information as one would want. AIWA, American Indian Warrior Association, member, Warren Brader is most supportive of the Computer Museum and the positive image of the military. His expertise is often sought out regarding the authenticity and chronology of various military communication and encryption equipment.On loan to the exhibit are: TBY-8 VHF Code Talker Radio. TBX-4A High frequency Code Talker radio. GRC-109 Special Forces, CIA, Agents radio. PRC-64 Special forces FBI, CIA radio. TG-5 Teletype. BC-611Walkie Talkie. KLB-47 Encryption unit. GRA-71 Encryption Code Burst unit.
All of the radio gear on display is 100% complete and operational. The self-guided exhibit shows that for most Code Talkers, their adventures began in April 1942, when Marine 1st Sgt. Frank Shinn established a mobile recruiting station near the government hospital in Fort Defiance. The first 29 were inducted May 4 of that year at Fort Wingate. The total number of Code Talkers is between 400 and 420.

"There never has been an official list of Code Talkers from the Marine Corps," said Joe Morris. One of the principal reason for the lack of public information is the secretive radio operating missions of the Code Talkers in the Pacific Theatre of World War II weren't declassified until 1968.

All Photos property and courtesy of Warren Brader