Christmas 2013

Christmas Wishes

The final weeks of the year are a busy time for most of us. Buying, wrapping and shipping presents, cooking, parties, you name it, fill our days. So this is a good time for me to take a break!

Before I do that, I have one question for you. Who can tell me the difference between a gift and a present? Is there actually a difference?

I am interested in your comments!

Have a joyous Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

The Navajo Code Talkers

Traditionally, Navajos are private people who don’t seek praise for just doing their duty, and because they were sworn to silence the Code Talkers didn’t talk to anyone about their war experiences. What many people don’t know is that there were also members from other tribes among the World War Two Code Talkers. And, what was disappointing to countless Native American Indians who fought to defend their country but were not part of the Code Talkers, is that only the Code Talkers got recognition and they did not. Their recognition finally took place on Wednesday, November 20, 2013, when Congressional leaders formally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to representatives of all Native Americans from 33 tribes for their service to the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I and World War II.

I recently traveled with my husband to the Navajo reservation, eager to see the Navajo Veterans Memorial in the capital of Navajo Nation, Window Rock. On the way, in a town by the name of  Kayenta, we discovered a small, unobtrusive structure faced with split pine logs and surrounded by Navajo Hogans and sweat lodges. Called the Shadehouse Museum and built by elder Richard Mike, it contained a wonderful collection of code talker memorabilia, letters, uniform parts, some weaponry and historical Navajo items, collected on the various battlefields by his father, King Paul Mike, who was one of the Code Talkers.

Two monuments dedicated to the code talkers deserve mention: the first, installed in 1989, in Phoenix, is a larger-than-life bronze statue of a seated Navajo holding a flute. “Why a flute and not a radio?” you may ask. A plaque next to it states “Among many Native Americans, the flute is a communications tool used to signal the end of confrontation and the coming of peace.”

The second monument is at the Navajo Code Talkers Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, the destination of my journey. The bronze statue – also larger-than-life – of a Code Talker in full military gear, complete with radio, antenna and submachine gun is placed at the base of Window Rock, a mystical Redstone rock formation in the shape of an arch. The memorial park is shaped like a medicine wheel, to many Native Americans a primary representation of the four cardinal directions, the four sacred colors, the circle of life, and at the center the eternal fire. A circular path outlines the four directions; there are 16 angled steel pillars with the names of war veterans, and a healing sanctuary used for reflections and solitude with a fountain made of sandstone. It is a sacred place, like many areas of the Navajo reservation, and I was glad to have finally been there. It was a moving experience for me.

After we arrived at our motel, the one and only in Window Rock, a friend of a friend, a surgeon on the reservation for fifteen years, took us to her modern hospital and guided us through many hallways where we saw an amazing collection of old historic photographs of Navajos, a collection that surpassed the one in the museum we visited the following morning. What a treat!  Several Code Talkers had been her patients and two of them are still alive today. We very much appreciated the personal contact, her stories and guided tour of the town, a worthwhile end of my pilgrimage to the Navajo Code Talkers monument.

photo 1              photo 2             photo 3






This concludes my story about the Navajo Code Talkers. I hope you found it interesting.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Until next time,


World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

The Navajo Code Talkers

Today, December 7, the world remembers the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and involved the United States in the War in the Pacific. I also remember with gratitude the Navajo Code Talkers, whose efforts helped end the war and save my life.

The first group of Code Talkers was deployed to a small island in Melanesia called Guadalcanal, east of Papua New Guinea. Infested with leeches and crocodiles in its dense jungles as it was, the Code Talkers did not have an easy time for they were used as everyday soldiers. Officers were very reluctant to use them as “radio messengers” because, even though their code had been tested and proven extremely fast and undecipherable it had not been tested before in combat. The Navajos proved to be adept as night scouts and natural guerilla fighters thanks to their lives on the reservation but it took a while before they were operating as “radiomen”. Slowly, but surely, the code proved to be convincing as the Marines conquered island after island on their way to Japan. Because for many other Marines it was difficult to distinguish them during battle from short Japanese men, many Code Talkers got their own bodyguard.

As the Allies progressed towards Japan, the enemy realized that a strange code was being used, and to prevent them from deciphering it, the Code talkers got together between invasions to update the code. Messages to their families at home were never delivered, in an effort to conceal the source of the code. The most difficult thing to get over for the Navajos was the bloody carnage and the dead bodies they encountered everywhere.

In February 1945, preparing to invade the little island of Iwo Jima, Code Talkers recalled their “Blessing Way” ritual and sprinkled corn pollen while other Marines prayed with their chaplain. Then they hit the beach wading through the dead bodies washed back by the tide. During the first two days, six networks of Code Talkers sent out over 800 battlefield communications with perfect accuracy and a month later, when they transmitted Victory at Iwo Jima, nobody doubted their code any more.

After the war, back on the reservation, they were Indians again, back in their Hogans, working hard for a meager existence, plagued by recurring nightmares, sickness, deafness and memories they could not forget.

The country did not recognize or reward them in any way because the military wanted to maintain their advantage for possible future wars. But the code was never used again and was finally declassified in 1968. President Ronald Reagan named August 14 “National Code Talkers Day” in 1982.

In the year 2000, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Navajo Code Talkers, and recognized others in 2008 because “there is no question that their contributions were unparalleled.” (Sen. Tim Johnson)

To be continued.

As usual, I welcome your comments.

Until next time,