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buber.net > Basque > Euskara > The Secret Language
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The Secret Language

Iratxe Gomez
translated by Blas Uberuaga

"Egon arretaz x egunari (Heed the x day)" was the phrase that marked the beginning of the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, informing the date chosen for one of the episodes that marked the development of the Second World War. And "Sagarra erragiza zazpi (Operation apple at seven)" served as the trigger of hostilities, to surprise the Japanese.

Euskara was one of the languages used by the US Army in its transmissions to throw off the Japanese during the war of the Pacific. An unknown language in the Asian front, which impeded the Japanese in deciphering the messages of the US fleet. The "Casa del Euskara" collected this anecdote in their digital magazine "Plazaola", together with other notes about the Basque language throughout its history.

The US captain Frank D. Carranza, the son of Basque immigrants, was the creator of this system, according to the historian Daniel Arasa. "He realized, in the training center, that there were 60 Marines of Basque origin that spoke both English and Euskara well. So, he put Basques to work on both ends of the transmissions," explained the director of the promotion of Euskara of the Bizkaian Diputacion, Gotzon Lobera.

Thus, the Pacific fleet made a secret war jargon or slang. Instructions to the troops were translated into phrases such as "Arreta zuhaitzari (Attention to the tree)," to advise that the enemy was hiding in the tops of the trees, or "Egalari lagundu (Inform the aviation)." The Japanese were driven crazy during the battle, which lasted until February of 1943 and which marked the destiny of the conflict. The mix of Euskara, Navajo, Iroquois, and Comanche completely puzzled the Japanese intelligence services.

Another fruit of the labor of research and documentation of the Casa del Euskara has been the discovery of a manuscript of Juan Perez de Lazarraga in a now-dead dialect of Alavan Euskara which has become "one of the most important discoveries of recent years for Basque literature," Belen Greaves, diputada of culture, pointed out.

The center, which celebrates its first anniversary on Saturday, coinciding with the celebration of the International Day of Euskara, has a multimedia archive of over 200 titles in the Basque language.

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