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.

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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,

Ronny

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