Windtalker sets the story straight
By Tina Page
helped to bring the story of the Navajo
code talkers to the attention of the world
in the movie “Windtalkers.”
A more accurate account can be found in
a Navajo, Joe Morris Sr., who joined faculty
and students Wednesday night in the University
Student Union to speak about his experiences
in World War II.
Morris was a Navajo code talker during World
War II. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps
in 1944 at the age of 17 by lying about
his age. He soon became known as a Windtalker
as he served in the South Pacific until
his discharge in 1946. The Navajo Windtalkers
were credited with saving many lives during
their tenure in service.
“At first the Marines didn’t believe that
the Navajo code would help,” Morris said.
“The Japanese had broken every other code
that the Marines tried to use. The Marines
started to like us. They said we were saving
a lot of lives with our code.”
The Windtalker code is based on the Navajo
language, which has no words for modern
concepts. The code gave Navajo words to
military machinery and troop movements.
A battle ship was “Lo tso,” meaning whale,
in Navajo, Morris said.
While other codes used by the Marines took
more than two hours to decode, the Navajo
code took less than two minutes because
it was simply based on an established language
that the Navajos could understand.
Morris was one of a group of 200 Navajos
sent to the Navajo Communications School
at Camp Pendlenton. The first group of 29
established the code. It was such a success
that the Marines asked for more.
“Let me say that the Japanese never broke
our code,” Morris said. “They are probably
still working on it.”
The code was kept so secret that Morris
was not permitted to reveal that he worked
as a code talker for 23 years after the
end of the war. Married in 1950, he was
not able to tell his wife until 1969 about
his role in the Allied victory in the South
Pacific in World War II.
Morris was accompanied by his wife and daughter
during the presentation. At the age of 76,
he stood straight in his Marine uniform
decorated with traditional Navajo turquoise,
a Windtalker’s patch and the numerous ribbons
and medals he received during his time serving
in the Marines. Morris recounted the horrors
of war with practical disdain.
“You don’t know how long you’re going to
last,” Morris said. “You think you’re going
to die all the time. I was lucky.”
The movie “Windtalkers” has helped to credit
the Navajo with the crucial role that they
played in World War II. For this, Morris
said he supports the movie. But he also
pointed out that it is really not as accurate
as it should be.
“War is something else,” Morris said. “It’s
not like watching a movie. You could smell
The “Windtalkers” movie and Morris’ appearance
were chosen by a focus group during the
summer to be included as part of this year’s
Multicultural Festival, Laura Apeldoorn
of Associated Students Inc. said.