Study Guide

Code Talker Quotes

  • Warfare

    The Japanese were winning the Pacific. Our fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, had been the one deterrent to Japan dominating virtually all the Pacific islands. And now that Pearl Harbor had been crippled, the Japanese were clearly dominant. (1.45)

    When we think of World War II, we tend to think of Europe and that mustachioed guy, Hitler. But the Pacific was the big battleground that the Americans and the Japanese fought over during the war.

    A Marine floated nearby, his sightless blue eyes staring up at foreign sky […] My body went cold. My throat tightened up, and I struggled for breath [...] After that, I did my best not to look at the faces of the dead. (1.61)

    This is Chester's first glimpse of a dead body in war. And it raises the question, how does he deal with death when it's all around him?

    We pushed bodies and parts of bodies aside, some looking more like raw beef than the limbs of human beings, fought our way forward, and finally fell gasping on the beach. (1.64)

    This quotation gives us a sense of how war dehumanizes people through death. The floating corpses look less like human beings than pieces of "raw beef." No, we don't want to eat that.

    Total madmen, the Banzai terrified U.S. troops all through the war. Each Banzai was a one-man suicide mission, intent on getting himself killed while taking out as many enemy combatants as possible. (12.102)

    Those Japanese have pretty creepy ways of getting to the Americans. Here, we get a sense of the tactics the Japanese used not only to kill the Americans, but also to terrify them.

    During a lull, we could look around and see the guys who weren't going to last. They began talking to themselves in a steady stream, and their eyes focused where there was nothing to see. (13.2)

    War isn't just a physical battle, it's a psychological battle. And a lot of the men lose the second, if not the first fight. What's worse, being hurt physically or going crazy?

    We'd been warned about the crocodiles, which were plentiful and mainly active at night […] they were even more chilling when the animal tried to crawl into your foxhole. (13.56)

    We'd think that the Marines have enough on their plates dealing with the Japanese enemy. But no: they have to deal with a hostile tropical environment. Who'd want to wake up in a foxhole with a crocodile snuggling up next to them? Exactly no one.

    [W]e dug in as best we could in the saturated, root-filled soil. Wind blew and the night actually grew cold. We'd been warned to stay in our foxholes. (14.14)

    For most of the fighting, Chester and his buddies live and sleep in foxholes. Sure it's safer there, but is it comfortable? Doesn't sound like it.

    For seventeen days, the battle raged. When men ran out of ammunition, many of them fought hand-to-hand using bayonets affixed to their rifles. Combatants dodged from one tree to another. Japanese troops emitted terrifying screams. Everyone refused to give up. (14.44)

    This quotation gives us a sense of just how brutal the fighting was during World War II. Hand-to-hand combat using bayonets? No thanks, we'd rather run the other way.

    When we left the bunker and started to move forward again, we were totally unprotected. Many men got shot, killed or mutilated, crossing that airfield. (16.29)

    In this quotation, Chester describes having to cross an airfield exposed to enemy fire. We get a sense of the danger that the Marines were often exposed to during the fighting with the Japanese. Boy those Marines are gutsy, crossing that airfield and knowing they might be kaput.

    The Japanese enemy populated my dreams, continuing to plague me even when I was awake. Our invasions of hostile islands played like an endless film in my head, with me and my buddies exposed to enemy fire as we struggled toward the beach. (17.33)

    In describing the way that he's haunted by the war even after his return home, Chester focuses on how the war continues for him long after it's ended. The war is one fight. Dealing with the trauma of the war is a whole other fight.

  • Language and Communication

    [A] thought slipped quietly into my head, then grew noisy: I need to learn English. What if I want—or need—to leave Navajo land someday? Knowledge of English would be crucial. (4.15)

    As a young kid, Chester doesn't want to go to school. But he's smart enough to realize that English is important, and he'll only learn it if he goes to school. This quotation foreshadows Chester's work as a code talker. His knowledge of English—and Navajo, of course—will come in handy when he joins the Marines later.

    I'd been caught speaking Navajo three days before. The Pima matron brushed my teeth with brown Fels-Naptha soap. I still couldn't taste food, only the acrid, bitter taste of the lye soap. (4.87)

    Chester's punishment for speaking in Navajo at school is a reflection of the way that his schooling isn't just aimed at educating him. It's aimed at wiping out his Navajo culture.

    The Marines talked to me, interviewing me in English about my family life and my education […] There were no interviews in Navajo. Apparently the Marines assumed we all spoke Navajo. (9.7)

    Even though Chester has to suffer a lot in order to learn English at school, he reaps the rewards later when he can prove to the Marine recruiters that his grasp of English is just as strong as his grasp of Navajo. He'll need both languages for his work as a code talker.

    Civil engineer Philip Johnston […] convinced Marine brass that the Navajo language—unwritten and spoken by only those who had lived among us Navajos—could be the basis for an unbreakable code. (9.19)

    Here we get an understanding for why the Navajo language was chosen as the basis of the secret military code. It's unwritten and spoken by few people, so chances that the Japanese will manage to break it are slim.

    How could we, twenty-eight of whom had never worked with the military, develop a code robust enough to be used in battle? (10.10)

    This quotation expresses the self-doubt that the new Navajo Marines feel about developing the code. Can they live up to the difficult task that they've been assigned, especially given that most of them have never even had any experience in the military?

    On that first day, we decided to use an English word […] to represent each letter of the English alphabet. Those words would then be translated into Navajo, and the Navajo word would represent the English letter. (10.13)

    It's a good thing that Chester and his buddies have a good grasp of both English and Navajo, as they need both to develop the secret military code. While Chester was torn between the two languages growing up, here we see the two languages coming together.

    In Navajo, no equivalent for words like "fighter plane" existed. We chose animals and other items from our everyday world that resembled the military equipment […] "fighter plane" was represented by the […] hummingbird. (10.48)

    Chester and his buddies draw on the natural environment of Navajo land to come up with the code. This is another way in which their cultural and environmental heritage comes in handy in helping the Marines beat the Japanese.

    [E]xpert code breakers from the United States military were assigned the task of breaking our code. They tried for weeks, but not one man met with any success in breaking the Navajo code. (10.63)

    It's one tough code that the Navajo Marines come up with. The fact that even American code breakers can't break the code shows us what a good job the Marines have done.

    A runner approached, handing me a message written in English. It was my first battlefield transmission in Navajo code. I'll never forget it [...] Enemy machine-gun nest on your right flank. Destroy. Suddenly, just after my message was received, the Japanese guns exploded, destroyed by U.S. artillery. (12.42)

    This is the first time that Chester uses the code and witnesses it in action. It works! Chester will never forget this moment because it's the first time he sees all of his (and the other Navajo Marines') work paying off.

    After being in operation for just forty-eight hours, our secret language was becoming indispensable. (12.66)

    It becomes pretty clear pretty soon that the code is a weapon that the Marines simply can't do without. Which means, of course, that the Marines can't do without the Navajo code talkers. This quotation suggests just what an important role the code talkers played in the battle over the Pacific.

  • Patriotism

    I reminded myself that my Navajo people had always been warriors, protectors. In that, there was honor. I would concentrate on being a warrior and protecting my homeland. (1.4)

    This quotation shows us how Chester manages to reconcile his Navajo values with the values of America at large. As a Navajo, being a warrior and a protector means stepping up and defending his country.

    "Always remember, you are defending both your country and your families. The Japanese attacked your land, your home, and now you will make your country proud." (1.30)

    These are the words spoken by a senior officer before Chester's (and the other Marines') first landing on the island of Guadalcanal. It emphasizes what a great responsibility Chester and the Marines face.

    We, like other Native Americans, had been born to the warrior tradition. Like other Navajos, we saw ourselves as inseparable from the earth we lived upon. And as protectors of what is sacred, we were both eager to protect our land. (9.27)

    Chester tells us here what motivated him and his friend Roy Begay to join up with the Marines. Again, we see him making a link between the values of his Navajo culture and his duty to defend his country.

    At Fort Wingate, we ate lunch and were sworn in as United States Marines. (9.15)

    Chester and his buddies are officially sworn in as U.S. Marines. This marks their formal commitment to defending their country (and they get a yummy lunch to mark the occasion).

    "When the time comes that you go to battle with the enemy, I know that you will fight like true Navajos, Americans and Marines." (9.68)

    These are the words of the commanding officer of the base where Chester and his Navajo buddies complete their basic training. The officer's words present the Navajos' three identities—Navajos, Americans, and Marines—as in sync. There's no contradiction between these identities.

    We Marines cheered our Naval brothers in arms. On shipboard, Navy men and Marines often harassed each other [...] That day, though, all of the rivalries were forgotten. We thanked God for our sailors. (14.92)

    Just because everyone fights on the same side doesn't mean that they all get along. Chester's comments here make it clear that there are conflicts within the U.S. troops, but when push comes to shove, they're rooting for one another.

    We took the island [of Guam] just three week after our July 21 landing […] The Navajo code, still unbroken, had allowed United States troops to move and attack, secure in the secrecy of their plans. (15.40)

    Chester emphasizes here just how crucial the code is in winning the war against the Japanese in the Pacific. How could the Americans have won if the Japanese had managed to figure out what they were up to? It's the code that prevents them from finding out.

    Marine Henry Hisey Jr. remembers, "The Navajos were extremely dependable. They were the kind of guys you wanted in your foxhole, so I always tried to choose them when something had to be done." (15.43)

    This is a non-Navajo Marine talking about the Navajos. Clearly, the other Marines appreciate the fact that the Navajo Marines are reliable. The Navajos aren't chickens: they step up to the most difficult tasks.

    I was a Marine who had fought for my country, a Marine who had contributed in a most unusual way to the war effort. The code I had helped to develop had never been cracked. (17.15)

    On his way back to America after the war, Chester reflects on his service. He's pretty confident that he's done his patriotic duty: he's helped defend his country to the best of his abilities. We see here how important the value of patriotism is to Chester.

    My father was very quiet when I told him that I had been a code talker. I saw the emotion in his face, and it took him a long time to say anything. He was so happy and so proud. After our work was declassified, he used to kind of show me off. (21.2)

    Twenty-three years after the war, the Navajo code is declassified, and Chester can finally tell his dad what he really did in the Pacific. Chester's words here suggest that his dad's pride and happiness are a huge reward. And aren't we impressed that he managed to keep the secret from him for twenty-three years? Chester is a seriously disciplined guy.

  • Identity

    Pretty much all the movies were about cowboys defeating Indians […] After watching those movies, some of the little kids planned to be cowboys when they grew up. (5.45)

    "Indian" kids want to grow up to be cowboys, after watching all the cowboy-vs.-Indian films at school. These films suggest how Chester's education is aimed to make him (and other kids) look down on his own Native American culture and identity.

    The new religion presented new ideas, differing in disquieting ways from the religion we had learned at home. (5.71)

    Chester and the other Navajo boys at school are made to go to Catholic church. The conflict between Catholicism and Navajo religion is one of the ways in which Chester experiences an identity crisis.

    The new religious teachings caused confusion. We students were taught only the white man's way at school and only the Navajo way at home. And each culture saw the other as wrong. (5.72)

    White culture says Navajo culture is wrong, and Navajo culture says white culture is wrong. Who's right? Chester has to figure out the answer for himself.

    Concentrate. Pray. I prayed to both the white and the Indian Gods. (13.68)

    In the midst of the battle for Mt. Austen on Guadalcanal, Chester appeals to both his Navajo and "Anglo" Gods to help him. Chester's a guy who's good at reconciling his two cultures—Navajo and American—and here we see him doing that.

    Suddenly two United States soldiers waylaid us.

    "Don't move, Japs," one of them said. "Why are you wearing United States Marine uniforms?" (16.14-15)

    It's hard enough being confused over whether they belong in the Navajo world or the "Anglo" world. But being confused for Japanese? That adds a whole other layer of complication—and danger. These U.S. soldiers must be pretty ignorant to think that Chester and his buddies are Japanese.

    From behind his desk, the man stared at me, the Navajo Marine, and his eyes narrowed.

    "You're not a full citizen of the United States, you know […] You can't even vote." (17.2-3)

    Chester's gone off and risked his life for his country, and here is this racist civil servant telling him he's not a full citizen. This scene shows us how as a Native American, Chester not only has to deal with enemies abroad, he also has to deal with enemies at home.

    Four Navajo military men wearing camouflage marched in, carrying the US flag, the New Mexico flag, the Navajo Nation flag, and the black POW/MIA flag. (22.7)

    These four flags—carried in at a celebration that Chester's friends and family hold for him—represent Chester's many identities. (A POW/MIA flag is a "prisoner of war/missing in action" flag. Thank goodness Chester didn't go MIA, otherwise we wouldn't have his memoir).

    I think about how, in my life, cultures have collided—the quiet of Navajo land giving way to military training, the strict order of military training exploding into the chaos of battle. (23.4)

    Chester reflects on the cultural and other upheavals he's experienced throughout his life. In using the world "collided," he suggests that these upheavals have been violent.

    My fellow code talkers and I have become part of a new oral and written tradition, a Navajo victory, with our culture contributing to our country's defeat of a wily foe. (23.6)

    Even though Chester is a modest guy, we can sense in his words here that he's proud of his own and his culture's contribution to the defeat of the Japanese. By saying that the code talkers have become "part of a new oral and written tradition," Chester's words also recall those stories he'd grown up listening to as a child. He's become a hero in his own Navajo tale.

    I still carry my medicine in my pocket.

    It's been a good life—so far. (23.6-7)

    These are the last two sentences of Code Talker. It's significant that Chester refers to his medicine bag here, because the medicine bag represents his link to his Navajo culture and identity. The reference to the medicine bag, in other words, shows us that Chester's identity is rooted in his Navajo heritage.

  • Tradition and Customs

    I switched to a traditional Navajo prayer.

    In beauty I walk.

    With beauty before me I walk.

    With beauty behind me I walk.

    With beauty around me I walk.

    With beauty above me I walk.

    With beauty below me I walk. (1.89)

    Here, Chester recites a traditional Navajo prayer to help him get through his first battle in the Pacific. Hard to think we're walking in beauty when shells are exploding all around us. But hey: it's always good to look on the bright side.

    The Navajo Right Way stressed the importance of a life in balance, a respect for all things as part of nature, even rocks and blades of grass. (5.71)

    The Right Way is a motif that appears again and again in the book. How can Chester live according to the Right Way when he's surrounded by violence and bloodshed?

    The man entered the door and moved clockwise around the dwelling, blessing each of the four directions with corn pollen. Then he stepped outside, walking clockwise from east to south, west, then north. At each compass point, he again blessed the hogan. Last, he blessed the door. (6.15)

    There's a lot of detail in Chester's description of the medicine man blessing his grandmother's hogan. It's a way for Chester to dramatize the blessing ceremony for us, by using details to bring it to life.

    The four directions were very important in Navajo belief. East […] was where life began, the sunrise. South… was where you got warmth. West […] had to do with the way you spent your day, what was ahead and behind, and also where the sun was carried away at sunset. North […] was where everything was put to rest. (6.17)

    Now we know what East, West, North and South really mean. More importantly, we know why the Navajo place so much emphasis on these four directions.

    I loved spending days with the sheep and goats, but I also looked forward to the social gatherings. There, stories I knew and loved were told for the hundredth time. (6.32)

    Storytelling is a big part of Chester's Navajo life as a young boy on the Checkerboard. Chester's love of storytelling as a kid foreshadows his own storytelling as an adult and a proud Marine veteran. As a child he listens to stories, as an old man he tells his own stories.

    The men sang traditional songs, celebrating our relationship to the four compass directions. Coolidge and I joined in on the songs we knew, but on many we just listened to the men. (7.12)

    By listening to the older family men singing in the sweathouse, we see Chester and Coolidge, his brother, learning from their elders. It's a scene that shows us traditions and customs being passed down from one generation to the next.

    As I turned back to the right, a sniper's bullet whined by my head. Shit! I reached to touch the medicine bag in my pocket. It was there, safe, protecting me. (14.26)

    In the midst of battle, Chester relies on the medicine bag—a traditional Navajo charm—for protection. The medicine bag represents the way Chester draws strength from the traditions and customs of his Navajo culture during the war.

    My family agreed that if things continued as they were, the Japanese would eventually take me away. I needed a ceremony. They would put up an Enemy Way. (17.34)

    Nothing better than an Enemy Way ceremony to get rid of those pesky war nightmares. This quotation suggests how Chester's Navajo culture helps him get over the trauma of the war.

    We Navajos see ourselves as composed of two bodies, the physical and the spiritual. The two are inseparable, and life according to the Good Way requires that they be in sync, and that we be in sync with our world. (17.40)

    Here, Chester explains to us the "Good Way," another pillar of Navajo belief. The Good Way, like the Right Way, emphasizes balance. This tells us just how important the idea of balance is in Navajo culture.

    We decided on a half-Anglo, half-Native American wedding. (19.2)

    Chester and Ethel reconcile their two identities—the Anglo and the Navajo—by incorporating the traditions of both into their wedding.

    The twelve Ye'ii are powerful spirits who act as mediators between man and his creator. [They are often] portrayed as manlike figures with masks and painted chests. (19.16)

    During his work at the VA Hospital, Chester paints a mural of the Ye'ii in the hospital's chapel. This is one of the many moments in the book where we see Chester expressing his respect for the traditions and beliefs of his Navajo culture.

  • Family

    I sat by a snapping winter fire, surrounded by family […] I turned forward again, my eyes focused on Father. My eyelids wanted to close after a long day of work, but excitement kept them open. It was story time. (3.1)

    In Code Talker, family is very closely associated with storytelling. This quote shows us just what a big part storytelling is in Chester's family. It's one important way that the family comes together.

    That day we would follow the three hundred sheep to a new grazing area, where we'd stay for a few days before moving on. (2.25)

    Chester's teamwork skills are honed through his work with his family herding sheep. These skills will come in handy when he joins the Marines later, since he'll have to work with other code talkers and Marines to win the war against the Japanese.

    The entire family had worked hard to build up our herd, and we were happy and grateful for our healthy animals. In Navajo country, sheep were a measure of wealth […] With the herd reduced by seven hundred head, all those years of labor came to nothing. (8.15)

    The Great Livestock Massacre is a huge blow to Chester's family. Will they stick together? Of course they do: they're there for each other through thick and thin.

    I returned to Fort Defiance alone. I forced myself to go, pushing the dread I felt to the back of my mind. I wanted to make my family proud. (8.45-46)

    Chester hates his school at Fort Defiance. How could he not when there are all those scary matrons beating all the little kids? But his biggest motivation in going back to school is his family; he wants to make them proud. His decision to join the Marines later is also partly motivated by his desire to make his family proud.

    When my time at home had passed the half-year mark, I finally broke down and told my sister Dora about these unwelcome visitors. Then I told Father, Grandmother, and Grandfather […] My family agreed that if things continued as they were, the Japanese would eventually take me away. I needed a ceremony. They would put up an Enemy Way. (17.34)

    Chester's having trouble dealing with all of the horrible things he's seen during the war. But his family's there to support him. We see the way in which Chester's family is so important in helping him overcome the trauma of the war.

    With the children all in school, [Ethel] started to work outside the home […] Sometimes she partied with the people she met at work. She and I began to pull away from each other. (21.21)

    While family's a big source of joy for Chester, it's also a source of heartbreak. It's not all fun and good times when he and his wife grow apart and then decide to get a divorce.

    Although I worked, I made sure to spend lots of time with my children and their friends […] On weekends, the children and I played football and baseball out on the street. I never tired of their company. (21.26)

    Chester's big on family, as we can see from the fact that he loves to spend time with his children. Being a Marine is one big part of his identity. Being a family man is the other.

    The judge allowed me to keep my four boys. They were good kids. We divided up all the chores, and everyone did his part. I was happy to have them with me. (21.35)

    What a dude: after he gets a divorce from Ethel, it's Chester who takes on the responsibility of raising his sons. Is this guy committed to his family or what?

    [J]ust days before his death, Stanley had talked with me about the picture. "You'll have to finish this drawing for me," he said.

    The drawing was never finished. For a long time after Stanley died, I couldn't make myself care about life. (21.13-14)

    This is one of the big tragedies of Chester's family life: the death of his son Stanley. Chester's sense of loss after Stanley's death suggests just how attached he is to his family.

    I had been honored by the U.S. Congress, but on this day my extended family was hosting a celebration in my honor. (22.2)

    Chester values his family, but his family also values him. This celebration in his honor shows us how the relationship between Chester and his family is a two-way street.

  • Friendship

    [O]n weekends we were free. Not tied to duties like sheepherding, we spent our leisure time exploring San Diego […] Many of my Navajo buddies had never tried beer, or any alcohol, before. (10.31)

    Chester and the other code talkers become friends not only through their work developing the code, but also through having fun together. Getting drunk together is a tried and tested method for becoming friends with people quickly.

    Lowell Damon was a real nice guy, my best buddy […] I always wished he could have accompanied Roy Begay and me when we went overseas together. (10.54)

    Chester remembers Lowell Damon as his "best buddy" from his time in Camp Elliott in San Diego. But Chester can't pick and choose which friends he takes with him abroad. That's military life: he can't always have it his way.

    They were all good men, and it makes me feel nostalgic, thinking about those guys, my buddies. (10.55)

    Chester's words here make us see that the code talkers he worked with weren't just his fellow Marines, they were his "buddies," his friends.

    In general, we ten code talkers on the ship stayed close, talking Navajo and practicing—always practicing—the new code. (11.15)

    The code is the link that ties the Navajo Marines together. Through practicing it, the code talkers stay "close" to one another. And they become close too.

    Through Marine boot camp, followed by the serious job of designing and memorizing the code, we men forged a real bond. (11.21)

    What's the quickest way to make friends? Go through boot camp and develop a top-secret military code with a bunch of strangers. That'll do it.

    I liked knowing Roy was there. Partnering with my roommate from Tuba City was good, when everything else was so foreign. (11.41)

    It's sure a good thing to have a friend with us when we're stuck in a foxhole on an obscure island in the middle of the Pacific. Chester and Roy go way back, and here we get a sense of how Chester draws strength from his friendship with Roy.

    Roy and I whispered in Navajo, joking with each other, trying to stay awake. (12.77)

    This is a little moment in which we see Chester and Roy supporting each other in the middle of war. Nothing like a good joke to let off some steam.

    We code talkers waved good-bye to the friends we had made in the 1st Marine Division—some of whom were best buddies—and tried to prepare ourselves mentally to forge new bonds as the war continued. (13.39)

    The code talkers are sad to see the men of the 1st Marine Division leave. Here we see that part of the difficulty of the war for Chester and the other code talkers is having to let go of old friends.

    We four men—Francis and I working in tandem, and Roy Begay and Roy Notah doing the same—became a team. (13.1)

    Even though Francis and Roy Notah join Chester and Roy Begay later in the war, they're accepted into the fold. The two old friends make room for their two new code-talking buddies. This shows us how the code talkers are really good at embracing one another.

    It took quite a while before we were able to feel at home with our new cohorts […] We missed the closeness we'd had with the officers and men of the 1st Marine Division. I wasn't wise enough, then, in the ways of war to know that the next campaign would bring us close to our new fighting partners. (13.7)

    Chester's comments suggest how war makes friends out of people. When our lives are on the line, and we have to depend on our buddies to look out for us, we become close to them very quickly.

  • Courage

    "Always remember, you are defending both your country and your families. The Japanese attacked your land, your home. And now you will make your country proud." (1.30)

    The words of a senior officer before the invasion of Guadalcanal emphasizes the fact that Chester and his buddies will only win their country's esteem if they carry out their duty with courage.

    Our ability to stay calm in the face of pressure, to think clearly under stress, had reaped rewards. We were Marines! (9.11)

    Chester and the code talkers have gone through boot camp. They've proven that they have the skills and the courage to be Marines.

    The intense training had built up our confidence. By the end of basic training, I felt satisfied that I had learned everything I needed to know to stay alive in combat. (9.71)

    Chester's feeling good about taking on the enemy. He's full of confidence. He'll need confidence, considering the seriously dangerous situations he'll find himself in.

    We were heroes back in the United States. But I don't think any of us, struggling as we were to keep going and to do our jobs, could have felt less like a hero. (13.42)

    At this point, Chester has no idea that back at home in America the newspapers are celebrating the Marines. Being a hero doesn't mean that he feels like a hero. Even if other people are saying so.

    I'm not saying we were heroes, but we Navajo men always tried to do our best, just like we'd been taught by our families back home. (15.44)

    Here, Chester traces his courage back to the values that he's learned from his family back on the Checkerboard. We can also see what a modest guy he is. He is a hero, but he says he just tried his best.

    The general formula for numbers of invading troops needed to overcome entrenched troops was three to one. Thus we needed thirty thousand Marines to vanquish the ten-thousand-plus Japanese hidden in caves and tunnels on the island. The First Marine Division […] had only about nine thousand infantrymen, plus their 11th Regiment, Division Artillery. (16.7)

    The odds are seriously against them, but the Marines still take on the Japanese on the island of Peleliu. This is the kind of courage that Chester and his buddies are called on to show again and again.

    I remember approaching the field. It was wide open with no cover, the kind of place any fighting man wanted to avoid at all costs. (16.25)

    On the island of Peleliu, Chester faces his toughest battle yet. Crossing an airfield exposed to enemy fire takes a whole lotta guts, and Chester's got them.

    [W]e Navajos don't celebrate the accomplishments of one who has done his expected duty, so although the homecoming was joyous, there was no reason to celebrate my bravery. (17.26)

    We'd expect big parties, drinking, and even some fireworks in celebration of Chester's safe return home. But no. The guy risked his life to save his country? So what. He was just doing his duty.

    "[The code talkers'] resourcefulness, tenacity, integrity and courage saved the lives of countless men and women and sped the realization of peace for war-torn lands." (21.6)

    These are the words of President Richard Nixon, who honors the code talkers in a letter to the Navajo Tribal Council in 1971. Who are we to contradict Nixon's praise of the code talkers' courage?

    "In presenting gold medals to each of them, the Congress recognizes their individual service, bravely offered and flawlessly performed." (21.9)

    President George W. Bush presents Chester and the code talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal. That's the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow. Are we convinced that these guys are courageous heroes yet or not?