Navajo Code Talkers

Preston (left) and Frank (right) Toledo stationed with 11th Marines in Australia, 1943

Preston (left) and Frank (right) Toledo stationed with the 11th Marines in Australia, 1943 Photographer Unknown, courtesy of Marine Corps Archive  from the Photograph Collection at the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections

This black and white photograph was taken in July 1943 featuring Preston and Frank Toledo. Frank and Preston were cousins and were both Private First Class. Frank and Preston were attached to the 11th Marine Artillery Regiment in Ballarat, Australia. The photograph itself is small but was enlarged when it was uploaded to the Marine Corps Archive via Flickr. Preston is on the left and he is speaking into the radio receiver while Frank is transcribing his notes into code. Preston and Frank both have determined expressions on their face because this was a hard job and this photograph looks candid so we are seeing them as their fellow Marines would be seeing them in that moment. The photographer is unknown but was most likely another Marine because the Marine Corps documented various aspects of everyday life during World War II including the duties of the Navajo Code Talkers. The Navajo Code Talkers were an integral part of the allied war efforts. In 1942 The United States Marine Corps enlisted 29 Navajo men with the intention of using their complex language to encode military actions. For example, Marines like Frank and Preston Toledo would receive a message from another unit in Navajo, they would then translate the message into English and then send an answer if needed in Navajo. The Code itself was developed by coming up with names for countries, military terms and objects even if the words themselves did not exist in Navajo. For example, the word for Submarine was Besh-lo which if literally translated means Iron Fish. The Navajo Code was never broken by the German or Japanese code breakers. This photograph is housed in the Marine Corps collection. The original was most likely stored in a photo album, but this photograph circulates online regularly because it is available for reproduction and sharing from the Marine Corps.




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