Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WWII Navajo Code Talkers Share their Stories with Red Cross

On Saturday, Feb. 15, three veterans who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II as Navajo Code Talkers paused to tell their tales to a team of six Red Cross Service to Armed Forces volunteers.
Code Talkers Robert Walley (L),
Bill Toledo and Alfred Newman waiting
 to tell their story in Pueblo, Co.
Photo by Bill Fortune/Red Cross

The Navajo Code Talkers were part of a large contingent of Native Americans recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to encrypt messages using their native language. The Navajo code talkers participated in every assault conducted by the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theatre from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six Marine divisions transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language code, a code that the Japanese never broke.

The Code Talkers - Alfred Newman, Bill Toledo and Robert Walley - were in Pueblo to attend an event in their honor sponsored by the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center. As part of the event, the Code Talkers were offered the opportunity to tell their story for the Veterans History Project.
Navajo Code Talkers stand with
 Colorado Senator George Rivera in
Pueblo, Co.
Photo by Bill Fortune/Red Cross

“We saved lives by using our native language as a code,” said Bill Toledo. “We were in battle with the U.S. Marines passing messages from the front line. It was dangerous and exciting and we were proud to serve with the Marines.”

The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The Project collects firsthand accounts of U.S. Veterans, as well as citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, Red Cross volunteers, etc.). The interviews are recorded and maintained in the Library of Congress.

The American Red Cross has been a part of the Project for many years and participates by offering veterans an opportunity to tell their story. “This was a rare opportunity and a great honor,” Said James Griffith, Service to Armed Forces manager. “Listening to their stories was very moving and I know it will be a welcome addition to the archives.”

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