How navajo codes helped the allies win world war ii

In 1942, 29 Navajo men joined the U.S. Marines and developed an unbreakable code that would be used across the Pacific during World War II. They were the Navajo Code Talkers.

The Navajo Code Talkers participated in all assaults the U.S. Marines led in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945, including Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu and Iwo Jima. The Code Talkers conveyed messages by telephone and radio in their native language, a code that was never broken by the Japanese.

“In the early part of World War II, the enemy was breaking every military code that was being used in the Pacific. This created a huge problem for strategizing against the enemies.

Eventually, a suggestion was made in early 1942 to use Navajo language as a code,” Navajo Code Talker and Navajo Code Talkers Association President Peter MacDonald said during an appearance at the White House in 2017.

Aug. 14 is National Code Talkers Day. Here are some important facts to know about the Navajo Code Talkers:

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The Navajo Code Talkers were a vital part in the United States' war efforts in the Pacific during World War II. Here are 5 facts about these heroes.

How did the Navajo Code Talkers start?

The idea for using the Navajo language as a military code came from Philip Johnston in 1942. He was a World War I veteran and the son of a missionary who lived on the Navajo Nation. According to the National Archives and Records, Johnston got the idea after reading an article that talked about how the Army used Native American soldiers as signalmen during training maneuvers. 

His experience growing up with Navajo language and culture is what led him to suggest it be used as a military code, noting that the language was unknown among other tribes and the public.

Johnston went to the Naval Office in Los Angeles, California, and was referred to Major James E. Jones at Camp Elliot in San Diego.

Jones was skeptical about the idea until Johnston spoke a few Navajo words to him and was asked to do a trial run with Navajo people. 

On March 6, 1942, Major Gen. Clayton B. Vogel issued a letter supporting an effort to recruit 200 Navajo men for the U.S. Marines. He stressed that the Navajo language is complex and remained mostly unwritten.

Vogel's recommendation came after successful tests of the Navajo language were conducted at Camp Elliot in San Diego, California, on Feb.

28, 1942, when four Navajo speakers demonstrated sending and receiving six messages coded in the Navajo language.

The initial recruitment of Navajo Code Talkers was approved, but the Navajo men would have to meet the regular qualifications for enlistment, go through the seven-week training and meet the linguistic requirements of both English and Navajo.

On May 5, 1942, 29 Navajo men arrived at the Recruit Depot in San Diego for basic training. That was followed by intensive courses in transmitting messages and radio operation at the Fleet Marine Force Training Center at Camp Elliot. The 29 recruits developed the code with communications personnel during this training.

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. (Photo: United States Marine Corps.)

What was the Navajo radio code?

The Navajo radio code comprised words selected from the Navajo language and applied to military phrases. The initial code featured 211 terms, and during the course of World War II, it expanded to 411.

The Navajo language has no military terminology, and most of the code developed was new and instilled with military meaning. For example, the Navajo word used for ships was “Toh-Dineh-ih,” which means Sea Force.

 

Along with the code terms, the Navajo Code Talkers developed an alphabet system using Navajo words. The Navajo words, when translated into English, would spell out one of the 26 letters in the alphabet. Before the end of the war, the alphabet was expanded to 44 words by assigning more words to frequently repeated letters.

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

This graphic shows the Navajo code names used for ships during World War II by the Navajo Code Talkers. (Photo: The Republic)

Who were the original Code Talkers?

In 1942, the U.S. Marines recruited 29 Navajo men to be Navajo Code Talkers. Each recruit had to meet the general qualifications of a Marine as well as be fluent in Navajo and English.

The recruits were brought to the Recruit Depot in San Diego on May 5 for seven weeks of basic training. Once finished, the soldiers were moved to Fleet Marine Force Training Center at Camp Elliott in San Diego.

It was there that the 29 men underwent intense special courses for message transmissions and radio operation, and developed the code used during the war. 

The original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were Charlie Sosie Begay, Roy Begay, Samuel H. Begay, John Ashi Benally, Wilsie Bitsie, Cosey Stanley Brown, John Brown Jr.

, John Chee, Benjamin Cleveland, Eugene Crawford, David Curley, Lowell Damon, George Dennison, James Dixon, William McCabe, Carl Gorman, Oscar Ilthma, Allen June, Alfred Leonard, James Manuelito Sr.

, Chester Nez, Jack Nez, Lloyd Oliver, Frank Pete, Balmer Slowtalker, Nelson Thompson, Harry Tsosie, John Willfe Jr. and Yazzie William.

The Navajo Code Talker program was classified and remained that way until 1968. In 2001, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and all others were awarded Congressional Silver Medals.

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Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez, one of the original 29, shares his experience as a Code Talker. This interview is from 2011. He died in 2014. The Republic | azcentral.com

How many Code Talkers are still alive?

Four Navajo Code Talkers are still alive. The original 29 Code Talkers have all died, and the total number of Navajo Code Talkers that served in the U.S. Marines is not known. It is estimated between 350 to 420. 

It is difficult to ascertain an exact number because all the Code Talkers didn't serve together, they were assigned to different divisions in the U.S. Marines, said Peter MacDonald, a Navajo Code Talker, and president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association.

MORE: Alfred Newman, one of last surviving Navajo Code Talkers, dies at 94

The Navajo Code Talkers who are still alive include Thomas H. Begay, John Kinsel, Sr., Peter MacDonald and Samuel Sandoval.

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Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay sings the Marine Hymn during the Navajo Nation Code Talkers Day ceremony on Aug. 14, 2018 in Window Rock. Arizona Republic

Why were the Navajo Code Talkers so effective?

The Navajo Code Talkers were successful because they provided a fast, secure and error-free line of communication by telephone and radio during World War II in the Pacific. The 29 initial recruits developed an unbreakable code, and they were successfully trained to transmit the code under intense conditions.

MacDonald said that half of the 29 were shipped overseas to join the first division of the U.S. Marines because they were prepping their first offensive move in the Pacific arena, which was on Guadalcanal.

Once the Navajo Code Talkers proved to be successful in the field, more were recruited. It is estimated that more than 400 Navajo men served as Code Talkers during World War II.

On Aug. 7, 1942, the first Marine division hit the beaches of Guadalcanal with 15 Navajo Code Talkers, MacDonald said. “This was the first battle where the Navajo code would be tested in actual battle.”

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How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

The first 29 Navajo Code Talker recruits being Sworn in at Fort Wingate, N.M., in 1942. (Photo: U.S. National Archives & Records)

How were the Code Talkers honored?

The Navajo Code Talkers returned from World War II without praise or parades to welcome them home. Even after the program was declassified in 1968, the Navajo Code Talkers' role was not widely shared.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14 as National Code Talkers Day. In 2000, the Honoring the Navajo Code Talkers Act was signed into law, and by 2001, the Navajo Code Talkers were honored with Congressional Gold and Silver Medals. 

An annual celebration for Navajo Code Talkers Day is held on the Navajo Nation each year in Window Rock, Arizona. For more information about the Navajo Code Talkers, visit the website for the Navajo Code Talkers Association at navajocodetalkers.codes.

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Code Talking – Native Words Native Warriors

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

Navajo Code Talkers Corporal Henry Bake, Jr. (left) and Private First Class George H. Kirk operating a portable radio set at Bougainville, an island in the South Pacific, in December 1943. 1

The Code Talkers’ role in war required intelligence and bravery. They developed and memorized a special code. They endured some of the most dangerous battles and remained calm under fire. They served proudly, with honor and distinction. Their actions proved critical in several important campaigns, and they are credited with saving thousands of American and allies’ lives.

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

Buffalo hide painted about 1880 by Oglala Lakota (Sioux) named Young Man Afraid of His Horse. Depicts the actions of traditional warriors in battle. 2

For thousands of years, American Indian men have protected their communities and lands. “Warrior” is an English word that has come to describe them. However, their traditional roles involved more than fighting enemies. They cared for people and helped in many ways, in any time of difficulty. They would do anything to help their people survive, including laying down their own lives.

Warriors were regarded with the utmost respect in their communities. Boys trained from an early age to develop the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical strength they would need to become warriors.

Many tribes had special warrior societies, which had their own ceremonies, songs, dances, and regalia that they wore. Usually, a warrior had to prove himself before being asked to join a warrior society.

It was a great honor to be chosen in this way.

Navajo Code Talkers and the Unbreakable Code

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II Pfc. Preston Toledo and Pfc. Frank Toledo, Navajo cousins in a Marine artillery regiment in the South Pacific, relay orders over a field radio in their native tongue.

In the heat of battle, it is of the utmost importance that messages are delivered and received as quickly as possible. It is even more crucial that these messages are encoded so the enemy does not know about plans in advance.

During World War II, the Marine Corps used one of the thousands of languages spoken in the world to create an unbreakable code: Navajo.

World War II wasn’t the first time a Native American language was used to create a code.

During World War I, the Choctaw language was used in the transmission of secret tactical messages. It was instrumental in a successful surprise attack against the Germans.

Germany and Japan sent students to the United States after World War I to study Native American languages and cultures, such as Cherokee, Choctaw, and Comanche.

Because of this, many members of the U.S. military services were uneasy about continuing to use Code Talkers during World War II. They were afraid the code would be easily cracked, but that was before they learned about the complexity of Navajo.

Philip Johnston’s Brainchild

In 1942, Philip Johnston was reading a newspaper article about an armored division in Louisiana that was attempting to come up with another code using Native American languages. Johnston knew the perfect Native American language to utilize in a new, unbreakable code.

As a child, Johnston spent most of his childhood on a Navajo reservation while his parents served there as missionaries. He grew up learning the Navajo language and customs.

Johnston became so fluent in the Navajo language that he was asked at age 9 to serve as an interpreter for a Navajo delegation sent to Washington, D.C., to lobby for Indian rights.

Alfred Newman, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers, dies at 94

How Navajo Codes Helped the Allies Win World War II

(CNN)One of the last remaining members of the Navajo Code Talkers, who used their difficult-to-learn language to form an indecipherable code that helped the Allies win World War II, has died.

Alfred K. Newman died Sunday in New Mexico, the Marine Corps said. He was 94.

  • Newman served during WWII with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, the Marines said, including at Iwo Jima, Guam and other island campaigns.
  • As a code talker, Newman was one of a group of Navajos who learned a secret, unbreakable language that was used to send information on tactics, troop movements and orders over the radio and telephone during WWII.
  • The code was indecipherable to the Japanese and a key factor in American military victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and several other major battles in the Pacific theater.

At Iwo Jima, code talkers passed over 800 error-free messages in a 48-hour period, according to the Congressional law honoring the program.

“Were it not for the Navajos,” said Maj. Howard Connor, the signal officer of the Navajos, “the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

Three surviving Navajo Code Talkers were honored at the White House in November 2017, although the event was largely overshadowed by President Donald Trump's attempt to insult Sen. Elizabeth Warren by dismissively calling her Pocahontas.

Prior to that comment, Trump spoke in awe on a topic he admitted he had known little about beforehand.

“I have to say, I said to Gen. (John) Kelly … I said, 'How good were these code talkers? What was it?' He said, 'Sir, you have no idea.

You have no idea how great they were — what they've done for this country, and the strength and the bravery and the love that they had for the country,'” Trump said, turning to the code talkers, “and that you have for the country.”

Navajo leaders believe there are fewer than a dozen code talkers still alive, but because the program was classified for so many years after the war, an exact tally is unknown.

How the Navajo Code Talkers came to be

The plan to use the Navajo language as a secret code began with Philip Johnston, who had spent his childhood on a Navajo reservation while his parents served as missionaries, according to the CIA.

The idea to use a Native American language as a code was not new. The US military had used the Choctaw language during World War I as part of its secret code, but Germany and Japan had worked to learn Choctaw and other Native American languages during the interwar period, the CIA said.

But the Navajo language's syntax and linguistics are particularly tricky for non-Navajo, and it is not written. So the Marines recruited and trained 29 Navajos at Camp Elliott near San Diego beginning in 1942.

Those 29 Navajo created more than 200 new Navajo words for military terms and committed them to memory.

“I studied on my own at night,” Joe Hosteen Kellwood, one of the code talkers, said of his training. “You had to memorize all the words at the time, 211 words. They were long words. I spelled it. I learned.”

In simulated battles, the Navajo code proved much faster than the encrypting machines being used at the time. So in August 1942, 15 code talkers — just over half the recruits — joined the Marines for combat duty amid the assault on Guadalcanal.

After that first battle, Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division, sent word back to the US asking for more Navajos, according to code talker Peter MacDonald.

See also:  How 8 fonts got their names

“This Navajo code is terrific,” Vandegrift said, according to MacDonald. “'The enemy never understood it,' he said. 'We don't understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos.'”

More than 350 people had learned the code by the end of the war. None of the original 29 code talkers who invented the language are still alive. Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29, died in 2014.

The program wasn't declassified by the military until 1968, and it would take several more decades before the story received wider recognition. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal.

How the Navajo code talkers helped win World War II

The use of code talkers actually dates back to World War I, when 14 Choctaw soldiers helped American forces win several battles against the German army in France. The U.S.

military again turned to Native Americans in World War II, employing several Comanche men to create secret messages in the European theater, 27 Meskwaki men in North Africa, and Basque speakers in Hawaii and Australia.

But it was the Navajo code talkers, who worked primarily in the Pacific, who had the greatest impact.

According to the official Naval History & Heritage website, the idea for using the Navajo language originated with a civil engineer named Philip Johnston, who had grown up on the Navajo reservation with his missionary father. At the time, Navajo remained an unwritten language.

It also possessed extremely complex syntax and no alphabet, making it “unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training.” In tests, Johnston proved that the code was not only unbreakable, Navajo soldiers could encode a message in just 20 seconds.

Cryptographic machinery of the day required 30 minutes to complete the same task.

Creating the Code

The first 29 Navajo code talker recruits arrived in May 1942. They quickly created a dictionary and code words for common military terms (“submarine” became “iron fish”). The entire system, as described on the Naval history site, was incredibly complex:

When a Navajo code talker received a message, what he heard was a string of seemingly unrelated Navajo words. The code talker first had to translate each Navajo word into its English equivalent. Then he used only the first letter of the English equivalent in spelling an English word. Thus, the Navajo words “wol-la-chee” (ant), “be-la-sana” (apple) and “tse-nill” (axe) all stood for the letter “a.” One way to say the word “Navy” in Navajo code would be “tsah (needle) wol-la-chee (ant) ah-keh-di- glini (victor) tsah-ah-dzoh (yucca).”

Nez told CNN in 2011 that they “were careful to use every day Navajo words” in their code “so that we could memorize and retain the words easily.” They were expected to memorize the code, which Nez said “helped us to be successful in the heat of battle.”

Each code talker was deployed to the Pacific with a unit of Marines. There, they transmitted messages and orders about tactics, troop movements and other orders. The Japanese heard these messages but were never able to decode them. Numerous battles, in particle the Battle of Iwo Jima, were won due to this strategic advantage.

Thomas Claw, 87: Navajo code talker helped the Allies win WWII

Besh-lo. Altseh-e-jah-he. Tkosh-jah-da-na-elt. Be-al-doh-be-ca-bih-dzil-igi.

On the World War II battlefields of the Pacific theatre, these words were gibberish to all but about 400 people. Those 400 people, “code talkers” from the Native American Navajo tribe, helped the Allies win the war.

Thomas Claw was among them. Born in 1922 in a Navajo community in Arizona, Claw enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943, prodded into service by men he met while working at a San Francisco shipyard. At age 20, already a married father, he was sent to a California base to learn to speak in the code that so tormented the Japanese.

Navajo was a complex, largely unwritten language. As of the 1940s, fewer than 100 non-Navajos understood it. None were from Japan.

By using Navajo words in place of several hundred important war words – “chay-da-gahi-nail-tsaidi,' or tortoise killer, for tank destroyer; “da-he-tih-hi,” or humming bird, for fighter plane – the code-talkers made the Americans' communications utterly undecipherable to the enemy.

“We talked about birds flying. Eggs. Sheep. People itching,” Claw told the Arizona Republic in 2002. “It made no sense, but it made sense to us.”

As part of the 1st Marine Division, Claw saw battle in Palau, the Solomon Islands and elsewhere, conveying messages between his regiment and headquarters under intense fire.

On June 23, 1945, he volunteered to man a security post on Okinawa. The island had fallen to the Americans days earlier, but a small number of Japanese troops continued fighting. One tossed a grenade in his direction. Thrown into the air and hit in the face by shrapnel, he suffered only minor injuries, for which he received a Purple Heart.

“I was lucky,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune in 1992. “All I got was shrapnel below my eye and cheek.”

After the war, Claw and wife Barbara raised five children in Arizona. Claw worked in construction and as a farmer, then took a job with the government's Colorado River Indian Irrigation Project in the 1970s. He was eventually promoted to water master.

The code talkers began receiving acclaim in the 1960s. Though modest about his semi-celebrity, Claw was fiercely proud of his accomplishments.

“Wherever we're introduced,” he told the Republic, “people point to me and say, `That's a Navajo code talker.' A lot of people appreciate it.”

He died of cancer Tuesday at 87.

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The incredible story of the Native American code talkers who outsmarted Japan during World War II

One of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers — a group of Native Americans who played an instrumental role in the defeat of Japan during World War II — had died, according to the Associated Press.

Alfred K. Newman was 94. He had served as a Marine between 1943 and 1945. 

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The Navajo “code talkers” were recruited during the second World War to help communicate messages on the battlefield. Their language, which at the time was still unwritten, proved to be an uncrackable code.

Here is the remarkable story of the Navajo code talkers, helped the United States win World War II.

The first 29 Navajo code talkers at their swearing in ceremony at Fort Wingate, NM in 1942 The National Archives

One of the code talkers at Trump's event on Monday, Peter MacDonald, said the new recruits were initially not told they were going to be used to speak in code. 

“They were just asked, 'Do you want to join the Marines? You want to fight the enemy? Come join the Marines.' So they volunteered,” MacDonald said.

Some, though, were drafted. 

“We were drafted. They made us go. I didn't volunteer,” Franklin Shupla, a code talker from the Hopi tribe, said.

Sources: Newsweek, National Museum of the American Indian

More: Features Trump Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas

Alfred Newman, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers, dies at 94

(CNN) — One of the last remaining members of the Navajo Code Talkers, who used their difficult-to-learn language to form an indecipherable code that helped the Allies win World War II, has died.

Alfred K. Newman died Sunday in New Mexico, the Marine Corps said. He was 94.

  • Newman served during WWII with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, the Marines said, including at Iwo Jima, Guam and other island campaigns.
  • As a code talker, Newman was one of a group of Navajos who learned a secret, unbreakable language that was used to send information on tactics, troop movements and orders over the radio and telephone during WWII.
  • The code was indecipherable to the Japanese and a key factor in American military victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and several other major battles in the Pacific theater.
  • At Iwo Jima, code talkers passed over 800 error-free messages in a 48-hour period, according to the Congressional law honoring the program.

“Were it not for the Navajos,” said Maj. Howard Connor, the signal officer of the Navajos, “the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

Three surviving Navajo Code Talkers were honored at the White House in November 2017, although the event was largely overshadowed by President Donald Trump's attempt to insult Sen. Elizabeth Warren by dismissively calling her Pocahontas.

Prior to that comment, Trump spoke in awe on a topic he admitted he had known little about beforehand.

“I have to say, I said to Gen. (John) Kelly … I said, 'How good were these code talkers? What was it?' He said, 'Sir, you have no idea.

You have no idea how great they were — what they've done for this country, and the strength and the bravery and the love that they had for the country,'” Trump said, turning to the code talkers, “and that you have for the country.”

  1. Navajo leaders believe there are fewer than a dozen code talkers still alive, but because the program was classified for so many years after the war, an exact tally is unknown. 
  2. How the Navajo Code Talkers came to be
  3. The plan to use the Navajo language as a secret code began with Philip Johnston, who had spent his childhood on a Navajo reservation while his parents served as missionaries, according to the CIA.

The idea to use a Native American language as a code was not new. The US military had used the Choctaw language during World War I as part of its secret code, but Germany and Japan had worked to learn Choctaw and other Native American languages during the interwar period, the CIA said.

But the Navajo language's syntax and linguistics are particularly tricky for non-Navajo, and it is not written. So the Marines recruited and trained 29 Navajos at Camp Elliott near San Diego beginning in 1942.

Those 29 Navajo created more than 200 new Navajo words for military terms and committed them to memory.

“I studied on my own at night,” Joe Hosteen Kellwood, one of the code talkers, said of his training. “You had to memorize all the words at the time, 211 words. They were long words. I spelled it. I learned.”

In simulated battles, the Navajo code proved much faster than the encrypting machines being used at the time. So in August 1942, 15 code talkers — just over half the recruits — joined the Marines for combat duty amid the assault on Guadalcanal.

After that first battle, Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division, sent word back to the US asking for more Navajos, according to code talker Peter MacDonald.

“This Navajo code is terrific,” Vandegrift said, according to MacDonald. “'The enemy never understood it,' he said. 'We don't understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos.'”

More than 350 people had learned the code by the end of the war. None of the original 29 code talkers who invented the language are still alive. Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29, died in 2014.

The program wasn't declassified by the military until 1968, and it would take several more decades before the story received wider recognition. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal.

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How Native American Code Talkers Pioneered a New Type of Military Intelligence

One of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” of the southeastern United States, the Choctaw traditionally farmed corn, beans and pumpkins while also hunting, fishing and gathering wild edibles. Despite allying themselves with the United States in the War of 1812, they were pressured afterwards into ceding millions of acres of land to the government. 

Following the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, most members of the tribe were then forced to relocate to present-day Oklahoma in a series of journeys that left an estimated 2,500 dead. In what would become a catchphrase for all Indian removal west of the Mississippi River, a Choctaw chief described it as a “trail of tears.”

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, it had not yet granted citizenship to all Native Americans, and government-run boarding schools were still largely attempting to stamp out their languages and cultures.

Nonetheless, several thousand Native Americans enlisted in the armed forces to fight the Central Powers. Nearly 1,000 of them representing some 26 tribes joined the 36th Division alone, which consisted of men from Texas and Oklahoma.

 

“They saw that they were needed to protect home and country,” said Judy Allen, senior executive officer of tribal relations for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, “so they went to the nearest facility where they could sign up and were shipped out.”

In summer 1918, the 36th Division arrived in France to participate in the upcoming Meuse-Argonne campaign, a major offensive along the Western Front. At that point, the outcome of the conflict was still in doubt. 

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