For decades, they kept their honor a secret.
When the Navajo Code Talkers were asked about their role supporting the United States in World War II, they would leave out the most important part of the story. They said they were radio communications men, nothing more. The truth was 400 of them, some only 16 and 17 years old, used their Native American language to send American messages Japanese code breakers could not solve.
The Washington Redskins honored four of these Native American heroes on Monday, recognizing them at halftime during their home game against the 49ers and hosting the veterans for a private guided tour of National Museum of the Marine Corps.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Peter MacDonald said he didn’t talk about his role in the war until he saw a story about code talkers in a 1950s newspaper. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to earn an electrical engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma and became the only four-term Chairman of the Navajo Tribe.
Roy Hawthorne was a code talker for the Marine Corps in World War II and also served in Korea. He described the museum tour on Monday as “overwhelming.”
“It makes me so appreciative of the fact that I could have been used to defend America,” Hawthorne said.
“When I went into the Marine Corps as a 17-year-old boy, I felt invincible. The Marine Corps didn’t diminish that at all. So even today I feel invincible because we have this great country that God has given us. I’m ready to do it again.”
George James was a code talker stationed with the Marine Corps at Iwo Jima. When his unit’s artillery men drew heavy casualties, he volunteered for three days on the front line.
He’ll always be proud of his contribution.
“We turned everything around,” James said. “Won the war on it.”
For a full photo gallery of the day’s events, click here.
Tags: Code Talkers, salute to service, san francisco 49ers, washington redskins
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