MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Combat Center Marines received a special opportunity to learn their Marine Corps history as it was retold by the Dine Navajo Code Talkers at the Protestant Chapel, July 11, 2014.
The Dine Navajo Code Talkers are a New Mexico-based group dedicated to the education and preservation of the Navajo Code Talkers History. Their visit was hosted by the Armed Services YMCA.
Three code talkers, Bill Toledo, Robert Walley, and Alfred Peaches, gave their accounts of life as a code talker during World War II, and their experiences during battles in the Pacific Theater.
“It was very surreal to see our past in front of us,” said Pfc. Caulleen Alexander, student, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School. “It was interesting to know how small [the Navajo code] started but how influential it became.”
The group had been traveling to military installations across the nation to share their story, and the Combat Center ASYMCA reached out to the group to bring them to the Marines aboard the base, according to Anita Neu-Fultz, executive director, ASYMCA.
“I believe that the young Marines need to hear their history,” Neu-Fultz said. “By hearing it orally from the people who were there, and physically seeing somebody that lived that history is amazing.”
Firsthand accounts included Walley’s experiences with the Marine Raiders at the age of 18; and Bill Toledo’s training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which led up to his deployment to the Pacific, to include his actions during the legendary Battle of Iwo Jima.
“We landed there Feb. 19, 1945,” Toledo said. “Before that, aircraft were bombing it for over 30 days. We were told that there were over 20,000 Japanese on that island.”
He went on to remind the audience of the tenacity of the enemy during that time, and the determination of the Marines to win the battle.
“We were supposed to take the island in one week,” Toledo said. “That didn’t happen. It took us 36 days before we finally secured the island of Iwo Jima.”
At the conclusion of the presentation, all were invited onstage to shake hands and give thanks to the code talkers, recognizing the contributions that they and their code, one that was never broken, made to victories in the Pacific and the triumph of the United States in WWII.
“Not only did it make me proud but I feel like I can build on this pride and heritage,” Alexander said. “I would encourage anybody to learn their Marine Corps history, as well as their nation’s history. We can learn from and appreciate those that gave us our heritage.”