More than 400 qualified Navajo Code Talkers served during WWII and only four are still living. Marine Corps Veteran Peter MacDonald (pictured above) is one of those four. He continues to share his story and experience as a Navajo Code Talker.
MacDonald served in the Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946. After joining, he was sent to training with other Navajo service members. The training was hard and they were sent to a top-secret Navajo Code Talker school to memorize more than 600 code words.
MacDonald in his Marine Corps uniform.
Instrumental in enemy surrenders
MacDonald was sent to Guam with the 1st Marine Brigade and later was transferred to the 6th Marine Division. The units he was assigned to were directed to report to north China where one million Japanese soldiers were refusing to surrender.
The code talker language was unbreakable even though enemies tried for two years to decipher.
The soldiers did eventually surrender on October 25, 1945. After that mission, MacDonald and his unit returned home and were discharged in October 1946.
Of the four Navajo Code Talkers still with us, two of them live in New Mexico and two live in Arizona. MacDonald said he keeps in touch, and that they often call and text each other to check in.
Code Talker museum to communicate Navajo culture
The Navajo Code Talkers history is important not just to Navajo Veterans, but to other service members, too. To commemorate their legacy, there will be a Navajo Code Talker Museum built near Tse Bonita, New Mexico, on the Arizona side near Navajo Nation, but due to COVID-19 the ground-breaking has been postponed.
MacDonald receives COVID-19 vaccine at the Tuba City VA clinic.
The museum will be an educational, living museum, focusing on the children, the next generation, and the generations to come. The museum will help them learn about the Navajo language, the culture and especially the resilience and determination of the code talkers during the war.
The museum will also focus on the Navajo way of life and their values.
“The hope is the museum will bring together all walks of life to learn how the code talkers were able to use their language to bring peace, liberty and freedom,” said MacDonald.
Recommends everyone get vaccine
MacDonald resides on the Navajo reservation and receives his care at the Tuba City VA Clinic. He recently received his COVID-19 vaccine and strongly recommends everyone get their vaccine as well.
“This particular virus is deadly, especially here on the Navajo lands where more than 1,000 people have died from it,” he said.
MacDonald thinks people should be wearing masks, maintaining their distance, and avoiding crowds. He said these are the weapons we have been given to get rid of this virus and we need to use them.
“Navajo is a very family related society,” he added. “We miss one another, but if we follow these rules and get vaccinated, we will be able to see each other sooner and not spread the virus further. If an old man like me can do it without any side effects, you can too.”
Mary Dillinger is a public affairs officer for the Prescott VA Medical Center.