NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 11: Members of the elite Navajo Code Talkers, the famed U.S. Marine unit who delivered unbreakable codes during World War II battles against the Japanese, look on before the start of the annual Veterans Day parade November 11, 2009 in New York City. Thirteen of the 50 or so remaining Code Talkers participated in today's parade for the first time. The nation's largest Veterans Day parade featuring 20,000 participants in New York is celebrating its 90th anniversary. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
New York City's Veterans Day Parade is the nation's biggest marching tribute to it's servicemen and women. But an important group of Marines has been missing from the annual procession for the past four decades, until now.
The Navajo Code Talkers have finally been invited to march in this year's parade.
The Code Talkers were 400 carefully selected Marines, chosen to develop and use an unbreakable code in the fight against the Japanese during World War II. It was a huge success.
The group spoke only Navajo, transmitting secret information and coordinating attacks against the enemy in the Pacific theater. The Japanese never cracked it. Keith Miller, a Code Talker who joined the Marines in 1943 says the code was a crucial part of the United States' victory in Iwo Jima.
Despite the success of the code, the men who were key to its use were told never to speak about it. It wasn't until 1968 that the Pentagon declassified the tactic and allowed the Code Talkers to take credit for their unique service.
Sadly, not many have lived to tell their war stories. Of the 400 original Code Talkers, only 50 are believed to be alive today.
The small group of survivors and their supporters are working to build a museum to keep their mission alive. They hope to raise money to fund the museum in Gallup, New Mexico. For more information or to donate to the cause, go to www.navajocodetalkers.org.
The surviving group of Navajo Code Talkers step off with the rest of the marchers for the Veterans Day Parade at 11am Wednesday. They'll heading up 5th avenue from 23rd to 57th street.