A move to build a museum honoring the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II is moving through the New Mexico State Legislature by an unusual process of Senate members providing some of their own capital outlay money to get the facility built.
The original legislation, as proposed by Senator John Pinto, is asking for $1 million in state funding to build the facility, won the unanimous approval of the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee in January.
The museum, which would also serve as a veterans center, would be built on Navajo land in McKinley County not far from the Arizona border.
Pinto, who has served in the New Mexico legislature since 1977, was a code talker himself, and is one of the last of the remaining Native American veterans serving in that cause in World War II.
A fiscal analysis of Senate Bill 365 prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee notes that the requested $1 million, to be spent in fiscal year 2020, would go for both the design and construction of the facility.
Up to 500 Native Americans, the vast majority of whom were Navajo and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, were given the task of using their Native American languages to transmit coded messages during the war.
The Navajo contribution to the Allied cause was praised by author Deanne Durret in Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers, who noted that the “code soon proved invaluable in jungle combat where units were easily cut off from the command post and the Japanese intercepted transmissions at will.”
Japanese intelligence, continued Durret, “decoded most messages—except those sent in Navajo Code.”
By Garry Boulard
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