1993-10-13 - Re: Native American Encryption?!

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: arthurc@crl.com (Arthur Chandler)
Message Hash: 039df6ae63480674863afc620ac10a93d02f46d003c00a999f67cbded33a5bff
Message ID: <9310130059.AA28188@netcom5.netcom.com>
Reply To: <Pine.3.05.9310121729.A27002-a100000@crl.crl.com>
UTC Datetime: 1993-10-13 00:59:55 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 12 Oct 93 17:59:55 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 93 17:59:55 PDT
To: arthurc@crl.com (Arthur Chandler)
Subject: Re: Native American Encryption?!
In-Reply-To: <Pine.3.05.9310121729.A27002-a100000@crl.crl.com>
Message-ID: <9310130059.AA28188@netcom5.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>   I remember hearing many years ago that one of the branches of the armed
> aervices during WWII used a native American -- Cherokee? Apache? --
> language to communicate. The Japanese (the story goes) went nuts trying to
> crack the code -- unsuccessfully.
>   Two questions:
>   1) Can anyone give me a reference for this story (assuming it's true)?

They were the Navajo (or Navaho) code talkers. Kahn's "The
Codebreakers" has a discussion of this, as I recall. Probably the
"Encyclopedia Britannica" will also a mention of it.

>   2) If one used a natural language for encryption, and the would-be code
> crackers did not know it was natural language (say, Hittite), could they crack
> it? I seem to remember that hieroglyphs were undecipherable until the
> Rosetta Stone was discovered. But maybe current techniques would do a
> better job....?

These are codes, not ciphers, and are of course not very secure. The
Germans and Japanese in WW II obviously did not have enough time to
find native Navajo speakers, and I suspect few books on that language
were available at that time, hence the scheme was temporarily secure.

Otherwise, forget it.


Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
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