I received a letter from someone in Arizona I did not know, telling me he recently found out that his late father was a code talker who had served in the Pacific theater during World War II.
He was going through some papers that had my name on them. He said his dad was a loner and never talked much. He wanted to know about his dad.
When I first met his dad at Lockland Field, San Antonio, Tex., in 1947, he never talked to anyone. He had to talk to me as I was the barracks chief.
I notice a civilian came by a couple of times and wanted to talk to him. This Indian had no friends I knew of and kept to himself. I started talking to him. I knew his name, and as I worked in the base headquarters Printing and Publication Department, I could find out things easily.
I found that he was a Navajo code talker and he had served in the Pacific Theater and everything about this unit was top secret. So, I know when to keep my mouth shut.
I never told him that I knew about his military career. I was his only friend while I was assigned to Lackland. In 1968 all this was declassified.
I later learned of a Navajo sergeant the Japanese had captured in the Philippines in 1942 and was in the Bataan Death March who was not a code talker. He was ordered to interpret the radio messages later in the war.
However, since he had not participated in the code training, the messages made no sense to him. When he reported that he could not understand the messages his captors tortured him.
The 2002 movie “Windtalkers” was a fictional story based on Navajo code talkers who were enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)