A Night with WWII Navajo Code Talkers

Serving with distinction in every major engagement of the Pacific theater from 1942-1945, their unbreakable code played a pivotal role in saving countless lives and hastening the end of World War II. Known as Navajo Code Talkers, they were young Navajo men who transmitted coded communications in their native language. The campus community is invited to listen to the experiences of two code talkers at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the McClung Auditorium.

Free and open to the public, the event will include a book signing and will be followed by a screening of Windtalkers, the 2002 film about the Navajo Code Talkers and the Marines assigned to protect them.

Bill Toledo was a Navajo Code Talker for three years from October 1942 to October 1945. Her served in many engagements including the Battle of Bougainville in the British Solomon Islands, and the battles for Guam and Iwo Jima. On one occasion, while marching through the jungle, he was mistaken for a Japanese soldier and taken prisoner. After being marched back to headquarters at gunpoint, he was assigned a bodyguard to avoid future misunderstandings. Although the danger is gone, he still gets calls to this day making sure he’s okay. Bill Toledo feels it is important to share experiences like his with new generations so that they may understand the cost of freedom and the sacrifices which were made on their behalf.

Frank Chee Willetto Sr. was born on June 6, 1925, near the world-famous Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and served as a code talker in the United States Marine Corps, using his native Navajo language to transmit vital combat information over radio. He earned two combat stars for his service with the 2nd Marine Division during World War II and in 2002 received the Congressional Silver Medal. Willetto now lives near Crownpoint, New Mexico, and has 10 children and 65 grandchildren.

For more information about the Navajo Code Talkers, visit http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/.

Tomorrow’s event is sponsored by The United States Marines, the Native American Student Association, the UT Library Diversity Committee, the UT Semper Fi Society and Mindspace Advertising. For more information, contact Kimberly Smith at ksmit102@utk.edu.