Sunday, November 21, 2010

October 23. Monument Valley.

When we got to Monument Valley,
 we checked out the Visitor Center first.
 There was an interesting exhibit on the Navaho Code Talkers.
Our Fathers, Our Grandfathers, Our Heroes Navajo Code Talkers of World War II Between 1942 and 1945, on the tiny Pacific Islands, thousands of miles from the security of their Four Sacred Mountains, Navajo Marines spoke in a code forged from their native language. While it amazed the American troops, this code baffled the Japanese and greatly helped win World War II in the Pacific. The idea to use a Native American language during World War II was not new. The United States had first used Native Americans in communications during World War I. The 142nd Infantry, 36th Division, under the command of Col. A. W. Bloor, called upon some Choctaws in his unit to send vital messages to withdraw two companies of the 2nd Battalion from Chufily to Chardeny, France on October 26, 1918. The Choctaws were also used repeatedly on the 27th in preparation for the assault on Forest Farm. Both uses were successful. One month later, the Armistice was signed and WW I came to an end. The U.S. Army revived the idea in World War II, utilizing Comanches, Hopis, Pimas, and Navajos, as well as members of other tribes, in isolated cases in both the Pacific and European operations. The United States Marine Corps, however, tested and developed a complex network of nearly 400 Navajo Code Talkers that spanned all six Marine Divisions. The initial Navajo code was developed by the First Twenty-Nine Navajo Code Talkers, recruited in the spring of 1942 as a pilot project. They developed over 200 terms for the English alphabet, general vocabulary, ranks of officers, countries, military equipment, and munitions. Later recruits into the program added to the code periodically. When new terms were added, the Code Talkers regrouped between battles for retraining and updating. When World War II ended in 1945, the Navajo Code consisted of nearly 800 code terms.

As more Navajo Code Talkers entered the field of battle and proved the code to be highly effective, more units began relying on the code for tactical operations. Specialized regiments such as the underwater demolition teams and air reconnaissance teams began utilizing the code to send highly classified material and orders. Code Talkers were also assigned to Communications Headquarters, both on shipboard and ground, to send messages to co-ordinate troop movements. By April, 1943, as word came back from the battlefields of the efficiency and security of the code, the Marine Corps issued orders to recruit 25 Navajos per month for the program. By 1945, when the war came to an end, there were some 400 Navajo Code Talkers who had served valiantly in the Marine Corps as vital communication operators. During one of the last and bloodiest battles for the Pacific, on Iwo Jima, the Navajo Code was used to assist in co-ordinating the major landing operation. Maj. Howard Conner, Signal Officer of the 5th Marine Division said, "During the first 48 hours, while we were landing and consolidating our shore positions, I had six Navajo radio nets operating around the clock. In that period alone, they sent and received over 800 messages without an error." One last major revision of the code was made in anticipation of a monumental invasion of the Japanese homeland planned for November 1, 1945. However, this invasion never occurred. Instead, the United States opted to drop the atomic bomb, the first on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki on August 9th. Navajo Code Talkers continued to serve during the Occupation of Japan and China. Marine combat losses in the Pacific war were 19,733 killed in action, 67,207 wounded in action, and 348 Marine prisoners of war. Of the some 400 Navajo Code Talkers who fought, at least 9 were killed in action and 2 died of wounds. The service rendered by the Navajo Code Talkers was critical to the Allied Victory in the Pacific. Without the accurate, secure, and rapid means of communications offered by the use of the Navajo Code, it is very likely that the outcome of World War II would have been entirely different. The United States could potentially have lost the war. The Navajo Code has been praised as the only code in military history to never be broken by the enemy.

As the numbers of the Code Talkers dwindle - fewer than 100 of the original 400 are believed to be alive - the Navajo veterans are being recognized. On Veteran's Day, a group of them rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and New Mexico dedicated a 16-mile stretch of highway to them. Now, 65 years after serving mostly in the Pacific, the men are trying to establish their legacy on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Through a foundation, they are about to launch a $42 million fundraising campaign for a museum and veterans center. The veterans are pressed to get the project started because the average age of the men is 86. Of the first group of 29 Code Talkers who devised the code for the Marine Corps in 1942, only two remain. The foundation has a list of 45 Code Talkers but there could be many more. It didn't help that the men were told by the military not to talk about their service. Their work remained classified until 1968. The idea for the Code Talkers is credited to Philip Johnston, the son of a Protestant missionary who grew up on the reservation and spoke the language. Johnston convinced the Marines they could enlist the Navajo as messengers, using their language to communicate quickly and securely. The Code Talkers devised a complex system assigning Navajo words for each letter of the English alphabet and for names of military weapons, equipment, and other phrases. Some phrases resembled the things they described. For example, the Navajo word for tortoise, "chay-da-gahi," meant tank, and the Navajo word for mother, "ne-he-mah," meant America. Other words were spelled out using Navajo words to represent letters of the alphabet. The military had to coordinate tactical operations on the fly, so they hit on an ingenuous solution - to use a language that no one understands and that there are no books for. The code was mostly used in the Pacific Theater where platoons made hard landings on beaches and lacked the elaborate equipment that could protect secret communication. The Japanese never broke the code. The irony that their language helped win the war is not lost on some of the men who attended government-run boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak Navajo.
Great Seal of the Navajo Tribe.

"We Navajo People Call Ourselves Dine, The People" According to anthropologists, Navajo and Apache ancestors migrated here from the far north. This idea is based on the relationship of the Navajo and Apache languages to those of people in Alaska, western Canada, and norther California. However Dine oral tradition tells a very different story of our origin. Driven by a flood from below, the ancestors of Dine and other peoples emerged onto the present earth's surface in what are now the mountains of southwestern Colorado. Guided by deities, they organized the earth's surface and heavens. They placed four sacred mountains to mark the four directions, each with its own color, and two in the center of the Dine homeland. The placed heavenly bodies to mark direction and the passage of time. Then they spread south across the San Juan River and over the land. Among the people were the village-dwelling Nihinaaxazi (know to archaeologists at the Anasazi) as well as people who lived by hunting and gathering. Later, monsters killed off most of the people until the two sons of the beloved deity Changing Woman killed the monsters. At her home on the western ocean, Changing Woman created Dine ancestors to repopulate the homeland and sent the eastward. Others joined them en route and, later, in the homeland. The Dine of today are descended from these peoples (clans) of many different groups who came together.
Welcome to Monument Valley. Brother Hawthorne loved this place when he went and he told me to get an Indian guide to go with us in our truck to tell us the history of the place. We didn't do this and I'll tell you why. We have no backseat for starters. We had to put the seat down to accommodate all our crap. Aaaaaand ... we were driving our own vehicle. Brother Hawthorne was driving a rental. We'd already had to replace the rear brakes and I didn't feel like replacing my shocks too. Also, there were dark storm clouds approaching and we didn't particularly want to be in the middle of a flash flood. I love me some Indians, but damn, could they pave a freakin' road just once? After traveling the tortuous road to the Skywalk, I would say that that road is a piece o' cake compared to this road. There are ruts everywhere and mud holes. If I really need to see everything, I'll put on a John Wayne DVD and check it out. As for the geological history of this area (Daughter Hawthorne, Are you still awake?), Monument Valley was created as material eroded from the ancestral Rocky Mountains and deposited layer upon layer of sediments which cemented into sandstone. The formations in the valley were left over after the forces of erosion worked their magic on the sandstone. A geologic uplift generated by ceaseless pressure from below the surface caused the surface to bulge and crack, elevating these horizontal strata. What was once a basin became a plateau. Water and wind then eroded the land and the cracks deepened and widened into gullies and canyons which eventually became the scene you see today. Natural forces continue to slowly shape the land. Please enjoy my pictures and videos:
Don't write me hate mail.
 Monument Valley is in Utah.
Rosie forgot where she was.

Brother Hawthorne has been anxiously anticipating my post about Monument Valley. I believe he will be disappointed since I didn't go through blinding rains and flash floods down a mud road to look at the monuments up close and personal. So in lieu of my photographs, I give you Brother Hawthorne's.
Here's Brother Hawthorne getting ready to lasso a monolith or a bunny rabbit.

Brother Hawthorne. Pretending to be John Wayne.

And here are Brother-In-Law Hawthorne, Sister Hawthorne, Sister-In-Law Hawthorne, and Cowboy Hawthorne. Happy trails. And stay tuned for more Monument Valley pictures. I just knew Brother Hawthorne was anxious to see pictures of himself on my blog.

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