Said President Begaye, “It is always a great loss when one of our
iconic Navajo Code Talkers leaves us. Mr. Yazhe was honored
and revered not only by our Navajo people but also honored and
recognized on a national level.”

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez added, “Our beloved
Navajo Code Talkers are among the greatest generation of
American citizens that put their lives on the line during World
War II in defense of freedom and democracy,”said. “The Navajo
language was the secret weapon that brought victory to the Allied
Forces and ended the war in the Pacific.”

Yazhe served as a Navajo Code Talker in both Guam and
Okinawa during World War II from 1942 until his honorable
discharge in 1946.

In May 1942, the first 29 Navajo recruits attended boot camp.
Then, at Camp Pendleton in California, this first group created
the Navajo code they would use, complete with a dictionary and
numerous words for military terms, during the remainder of World
War II.

The dictionary and all code words had to be memorized during training. Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode
a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the time required 30 minutes to perform the same job.
Approximately 400 Navajos were trained as code talkers.

Throughout the South Pacific from 1942 to 1945, the
Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S.
Marines conducted . They served in all six Marine
divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine
parachute units, transmitting messages by telephone
and radio in their native language—
a code that the
Japanese never broke!

Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer,
has been quoted as saying, “Were it not for the Navajos,
the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” Connor
had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock
during the first two days of the battle. Those six sent and
received over 800 messages,
all without error.

Without hesitation every one of them gave their word of
honor to the Marine Corps that what they did during the
war would remain a secret. As a result of giving their
word of honor many code talkers took the secret of their service with them to their graves, leaving surviving family
members with the little knowledge that all they did during the war was be a part of the Marine Corps.

    After the war, the Code Talkers were told to keep their work a secret
    and forget about what they learned. Even after their role in the war was
    declassified in 1968, they remained hesitant to discuss it even with their

    In recent years, the role of the Navajo Code Talkers has gained more
    exposure. President Ronald Reagan commemorated National Navajo
    Code Talker Day on August 14, 1982.

    Long unrecognized because of the continued value of their language as
    a security classified code, the Navajo code talkers of World War II were
    honored for their contributions to defense on Sept. 17, 1992, at the
    Pentagon. And during 2001, the Congressional Gold Medal was
    presented at a ceremony by President George W. Bush to several
    survivors representing the original 29 code talkers.

Fewer than 20 Code Talkers are believed to still be alive, and today there is one less hero who was there in the
South Pacific when the young Navajo men helped turn the tide of history.

Join me in celebrating his life and the significant contribution he and his fellow Code Talkers contributed to the cause
of freedom!
                            ...Ernest Yazhe Honored

Perhaps you read the news item from Salt Lake City this week. Ninety-two year old Earnest Yazhe, a member of the
Navajo Code Talkers, passed away on January 12, 2016.

You may not remember his name, but you should know that he was one elite group of Navajo Marines who
out-maneuvered the Japanese during World War II by transmitting messages in their native language.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye ordered flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff from January 19-22
in honor of Yazhe, The flag at my ranch is flying at half-staff, and if it were in my power, this nation would do the same.
Window Rock
Veterans Park
September 12, 2004

Front Row: John
Brown, Peter
MacDonald, Sidney
Bedonie, Bill Toledo,
Samuel Sandoval,
Frank Thompson,
Jimmy Begay, Joe
Price, Edward
Anderson, John Kinsel.
2nd Row: Arthur
Hubbard, Harold
Beard, Keith Little,
Sam Billison, Wilford
Buck, George Smith,
Larry P. Foster
(Son-of-Code Talker),
Samuel Tso,
Willard Oliver,
Jean Whitehorse
President Bush presented the Congressional
Medal of Honor to Navajo Code Talker John
Brown on July 26, 2001
We honor great American heros!
Sterling Graham is a rancher, former educator, coach, and historian who has been asked time and again to write a
column of his sage wisdom, razor-sharp jabs and occasional diatribes. He finally agreed to do so for,
exclusively, but with a few stipulations. No, we don't have  to serve only red M&Ms or send cases of vintage Poilly-fuisse.
We did, on the other hand, agree not to censor his political views, and he was insistent that we let him continue to write on
his well-oiled, prized 1926 Royal typewriter. More and more people are agreeing that the hard bargain he drove was
well-worth it. Heck, someday we might even kick in those red M&Ms!
Ernest Yazhe received the Congressional
Silver Medal in 2001 for his bravery.
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