CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
On Sept. 28, 2015, Navajo Code Talkers, Holiday and Roy Hawthorne, along with other Navajo visitors, joined Marines from 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, during a field exercise for a static display aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
After the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Maj. Howard Connor, signal officer, 5th Marine Division, declared “Had it not been for the Navajos, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.”
The Navajo Code Talkers worked day and night during the battle, encrypting and sending over 800 messages, making effective use of their radio and communications equipment.
The code of the Navajo was very difficult to decipher for anyone not of Navajo descent, and ultimately played a crucial role in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, said Ricky Gray, son of Navajo Code Talker, Samuel T. Holiday.
On Sept. 28, 2015, 70 years later, Navajo Code Talkers, Holiday and Roy Hawthorne, along with other Navajo visitors, joined Marines from 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, during a field exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
The exercise the guests attended was conducted to build-up training for Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 2016, an annual combined arms training evolution.
Marines with 9th Comm. Bn. introduced their guests to different equipment, including radios and motor transport vehicles.
“It was great to see all of the improvements in communications,” said Hawthorne. “It’s so far above what we had in my day.”
The advanced technologies and vehicles astonished the Code Talkers, as well as the visitors, said Gray.
“Seeing an improvement from the equipment that Marines used in the 1940s, as opposed to now, was just unreal,” said Gray. “We were told that the heaviest radio displayed was five pounds, while the radio that my father had to carry was 80 pounds, along with his pack and his rifle.”
After the demonstration, Marines gathered around Holiday and Hawthorne, who were both equipped with field radios. The Marines’ eyes widened, and the congregation radiated with applause as the duo began to speak and decipher messages usingthe legendary Navajo code.
The Marines truly valued the Code Talkers' visit and their demonstration, said 1st. Sgt. Christina Hunts Horse-May, first sergeant for Company C, 9th Comm. Bn.
The Marines payed their respects to the two Navajo Code Talkers, and allowed them to experience a rare glimpse into what they used to do.
“I hope the Marines here realize that what they are doing is for a definite cause,” said Hawthorne. “We would not hesitate to go back [to that era] and experience it all over again because that’s how much we trusted in the code.”
The Code Talkers’ visit allowed Marines to demonstrate their communications capabilities and build a bond between two generations of Marines that share the mutual duties of effective communication, and ultimately, defense of the nation.