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First Navajo Soldiers to Serve as Code Talkers Being Sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, photograph, December 1943

American Indian Code Talkers played a key part in aiding secure communications during World War II. They adapted their languages and dialects, little known outside their tribes, into special codes to secretly convey military messages. Unlike Puerto Ricans, Japanese Americans, and African Americans, American Indians were not required to serve in segregated units in either world war.

Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives and Records Administration

First Navajo Soldiers to Serve as Code Talkers Being Sworn

Serving the Nation: American Indians

Though they were not granted the rights of U.S. citizenship, approximately 10,000 American Indian men volunteered to serve in World War I. In recognition of their wartime service, Congress passed the Citizenship Act of 1919, conferring citizenship upon American Indian World War I veterans. In 1924 Congress approved legislation to grant citizenship to all American Indians. More than 40,000 American Indians served in World War II.

Be it enacted, . . . That every American Indian, who served in the Military or Naval Establishments of the United States during the war . . . shall . . . be granted full citizenship with all the privileges pertaining thereto.

H.R. 5007, An Act Granting Citizenship to Certain Indians, September 27, 1919