Joe Morris

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The Independent Online

Joe Morris, who died on 17 July aged 85, was one of more than 400 American Indians who used the language of their ancestors to relay secret battlefield orders during the Second World War. Navajo code talkers were young Navajo men who used their language to transmit secret communications in every major engagement in the Pacific theatre, including Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. Morris kept secret what he did during his Marine Corps service until President Reagan declassified the role of the code talkers in 1982. Morris then began giving presentations to schools and colleges.

The Navajo dialect was ideal for clandestine communcations: it never left the south-west US and was never written down. The Japanese had no way of learning it, and its complicated nature made it difficult for others to learn. Twenty-nine code talkers were recruited to train another 400 Navajo to work as communicators.