(KFYI News) – Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 1099, creating Arizona Navajo Code Talkers' Day. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Carlyle Begay whose district includes the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation.
There's already a National Code Talkers' Day on August 14th. Sen. Begay's bill – which passed both houses of the legislature unanimously – will piggyback the Arizona recognition onto the national recognition on the same day.
A handful of surviving Code Talkers were on hand for a ceremony at the Arizona Capitol to celebrate the bill signing. Peter McDonald, president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, was appreciative of the effort. "This one here is special because it comes right down to who we are and what we did."
The Marines, in an effort to find a code that the Japanese couldn't break early in World War II, recruited 30 Navajos to develop a code based on their language. They came up with 250 words, which stood in for other words. After the initial success of using the code in a key battle, McDonald says, "the commander of the first Marine division sent word back saying 'This Navajo code is terrific. The enemy never understood it. We don't even understand it. But it works. So send us some more Navajos."
By the end of the war effort, McDonald says, there were over 400 Code Talkers and about 600 code words.
Roy Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, said Navajos were happy to help the war effort once they learned it was over Japanese attempts to take American land. "When you talk about land with Navajos, it's a serious thing because we've always been ready to fight over land. We even fight one another for land," he said.
PHOTO: Some surviving Navajo Code Talkers gather at the Arizona Capitol to celebrate Gov. Brewer's signing of the bill.