Buzzard - On patrol by Ann and Chris Via Flickr: I’ve never liked the name ‘Buzzard’ for these large gliding raptors
As elegant as they are powerful somehow the term 'Buzzard’ doesn’t convey what a superb species this is. Soaring high above our countryside you have to wonder who came up with 'let’s call that bird a buzzard!’ Zero out of ten for imagination whoever you were
For me they are something outstanding and special., and when you get as close to one as this., you really get to appreciate that fact
The birds didn’t want to cooperate with me today. The Tree sparrows stayed in the trees, the Common buzzard flew way too high up in the sky and the Yellowhammer just gave me a suspicious look before it hastened away to somewhere else, far away from photographers (and buzzards).
The Navajo Code Talkers are best known for their operations in the Pacific Theater, where they developed a code based on the Navajo language that the Japanese were never able to crack. Fewer than thirty men basically became the US military’s own version of the Enigma machine, and it’s likely that without them, key battles in the Pacific would have gone very differently, and the US would never have taken Iwo Jima, for instance.
The Navajo Code Talkers are the best known, but not the only ones. In fact, the first code talkers were Choctaw and actually began operations during World War I, after a commanding officer overheard two Choctaw soldiers conversing in their native language and decided to train them to use it as code.
During World War II, the Marine Corps recruited men from a number of Native American tribes, including Cherokee, Choctaw, Navajo, Lakota, Meskwaki, Comanche, Seminole, and also from among (not Native American) Basque speakers. Navajo in particular was recommended to be useful due to its typological features (tones, complex inflectional system) and its unintelligibility even to speakers of related languages (Navajo is related to Apache languages and distantly to Athabaskan languages of Northern Canada, having been isolated from them for many centuries). At the time, only about 30 non-Navajos spoke Navajo, and the language had no writing system.
How did the code work? On the surface, it’s a simple cipher. Words are spelled out in a manner similar to the military alphabet: A becomes “ant,” B becomes “bear,” C becomes “cat,” etc. But these words are then translated into Navajo, so A becomes “wóláchííʼ,” B becomes “shash,” C becomes “mósí” and so on. If your name is Tom, in Navajo code, that becomes “turkey-owl-mouse,” or “tązhii-néʼéshjaaʼ-naʼastsʼǫǫsí.” If anyone intercepted the transmission, it would appear to just be meaningless sounds, or, even if you knew Navajo, a meaningless sequence of words.
To make things more difficult, they included shorthand for common jargon. "Buzzard" (jeeshóóʼ) was a bomber and “Iron Fish” (béésh łóóʼ) was a submarine. "Potato" was a hand grenade, and “turtle” was a tank. Running shoes were “gofasters” and pens were “ink sticks” (all in Navajo, of course). Other code talk languages used similar systems. For Comanche code talkers, Adolf Hitler was “crazy white man”!
Even though the Japanese captured a Navajo soldier, they still couldn’t crack the code because the solder wasn’t a code talker, and the code talkers kept the cipher completely internal to their group. It’s thought the Japanese might have been able to if they had exploited his knowledge of the language more effectively, given the simplicity of the cipher, but by the end of the war, they had never cracked the spoken code.
Navajo speakers did eventually settle on a standard orthography after the war. The code talkers from all language groups received no recognition until the program was declassified in 1968.