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Letter from the Editor – Lost in the kerfuffle


From Navajo Code Talkers Facebook page

Hollywood, MD  - The latest misadventure of rookie U.S. President Donald J. Trump involved invoking the name of an historic figure—Pocahontas—and was used as a pejorative aimed at a congressional critic from the other party. As pejoratives go, Pocahontas isn’t all that bad as she was a positive presence in the history books. The target—Senator Elizabeth Warren—shouldn’t be all that upset. No, the big problem was this latest political kerfuffle tarnished what should have been a wonderful moment in the spotlight for some genuine American heroes.

You see, the Navajo Code Talkers might be a major reason that the nation’s leader speaks English and not Japanese. It’s easy for a society that tends to marginalize history to assume that the Allies had World War II in the bag all the way. There were those with knowledge of gravity back in the 1940s that didn’t feel that way. Battleships, bayonets, bullets and even A-bombs weren’t the only tools the Allies implemented in the Pacific Theater that guided us to VJ Day. A whole lot of behind-the-scenes work aided the effort. Still, this was not a ‘white collar’ operation. As pointed out on the web site Native Words, Native Warriors, the Code Talkers’ role “required intelligence and bravery.” The special armed servicemen “developed and memorized a special code. They endured some of the most dangerous battles and remained calm under fire.” They were credited with saving thousands of lives. That’s something to treasure if your family owes its origins or continuity to a World War II veteran.

“The Marine Corps recruited Navajo Code Talkers in 1941 and 1942,” the web site pointed out. “Philip Johnston was a World War I veteran who had heard about the successes of the Choctaw telephone squad. Johnston, although not Indian, had grown up on the Navajo reservation. In 1942, he suggested to the Marine Corps that Navajos and other tribes could be very helpful in maintaining communications secrecy. After viewing a demonstration of messages sent in the Navajo language, the Marine Corps was so impressed that they recruited 29 Navajos in two weeks to develop a code within their language. After the Navajo code was developed, the Marine Corps established a Code Talking school. As the war progressed, more than 400 Navajos were eventually recruited as Code Talkers. The training was intense. Following their basic training, the Code Talkers completed extensive training in communications and memorizing the code. Some Code Talkers enlisted, others were drafted. Many of the Code Talkers who served were under age and had to lie about their age to join. Some were just 15 years old. Ultimately, there were Code Talkers from at least 16 tribes who served in the Army, the Marines and the Navy.”

“While the Navajo and Hopi served in the Pacific, Comanches fought the Germans in Europe, and the Meskwakis fought them in North Africa. Code Talkers from other tribes fought at various locations in Europe, the Pacific, North Africa and elsewhere,” Native Words, Native Warriors explained.

Furthermore, another web site, War History Online, pointed out that, despite their dwindling populations, Native Americans contributed mightily to the World War II effort. Sadly, their ranks, like all World War II veteran ranks, get thinner every day.

The president meant well when he invited these veterans to the White House for recognition. Trump deserves credit for his enthusiastic, unabashed affection for humble patriotic Americans. But his own sophomoric style of code-talking was inappropriate for this occasion. We hope the next opportunity to honor America’s bravest is handled more adeptly.

The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the management of TheBayNet.com

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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