tv Oral Histories Navajo Code Talker Albert Smith Interview CSPAN April 27, 2019 2:07pm-3:11pm EDT
and the breakthrough, the log jam was broken at that time. so almost 25 years later, were allowed to talk about it, slowly, slowly it came out until the united states congress decided to honor them in the beginning the 21st century, i think, with gold medals for and silverl 29 medals for the rest. great moment for them and navajo code talker ay is celebrated as holiday on the navajo nation each year on august 14th. >> all chronicled in your film, the navajo code talkers, in their own words. george colburn, thank you us.being with >> it's very nice to be here. >> here's part of that interview with albert smith, film puthe together by our guest here on american history tv.
>> albert, i've heard you talk many times, you've talked in very emotional, spiritual terms about this back to the battlefields trip, you're on a very place today, iwo jima. initialwhat your response is to actually here. >> my initial response to is i wanted to talk to spiritual father, that's thei went down to beach. and that's where i was spiritual my helpers,ith the in theroduce myself and to quietay down the ocean a little, a
little breeze, and i thanked them for being able to help this war, to come this far. and i thanked them for all of the relatives we have, friends that we have accumulated since the end of tho told themct and i about shaking hands with my enemies. the first thing i did on my way down, whenever i got to point along the way i took enemies a picture. the east, the west, to and to the north to get my bearings and to get myself comfortable with my spiritual father, to to visit with them when it was done.
i don't know whether the guys thatthe navy were up there, whether they are put there for purpose, but as i was -- i they weren't and the airlors force, so the first thing i sit down with that i amow them not thinking of them as my someone that is in the service for their country. that's what i did first, and then i came down, as i walked down, i got myself acquainted with my a partdings and i'm of nature and everything that comes to us comes from
our spiritual father so i them andank remember them. reminded them that many of comrades,, my and their lives here their families, i hope they gotten over it with i'm here tond also thank you to give us a little more blessings, calm, soe ocean that they can -- so that whoever goes out there feels comfortable. way here. land that i once saw. there's a lot of living on it. it looks like they were
time, but yet, they're still -- you see here and there. when i came, there was none. in bloom. no grass, just maybe little trees here and there, shrubberies. so i had to atone myself with nature. and the friends that i have lost, yes. ithink about them and pray for them. i pray for their families. and i also thank my relatives, all of my grandchildren on up, my neighbors. them, keep them healthy, and strong. yes.
tanks were stopped on the side, right breakers are. hitof them were -- they the lines and they stopped there and they made a line way from here to where the ships were. to all take our turns. the third landing. two had already been stranded there when we came up on it. and when we came in, we came through there. and on that side, a road similar to this on that side, because we went in there, as far as we could to the sugar cane field. field on this side and another field on the other side. infantry men went on ahead of us and we set up
centermunication right there. wents soon as the sun down, that's when we had the first counterattack. banzai, only heavier. couldn'trning, you tell the difference at night. by morning, all the sugar field, all the rows of sugarcane fields were laid up with dead japanese and the field as well as next field. and we stayed. together. and we spent the night there and went on. we hit theday,
thefield, we got to airfield. and we were moving quite here becausegh most of them had backed off after they couldn't succeed were doing. we they went on, followed them. we didn't see anybody on this side of us. so we just kept on going, as could and we by-passed -- there's a of japanese food. medics,ust told the we went on through and late noon, afternoon, they told safe.y were the food and the drinks to be distributed.
of it,ook advantage we had rations all the time. that's all we were carrying. almost halfway airstrips, them's a number of with some japanese planes, stills and zeroes, tied up, couldn't take off were quitey damaged. past thent airfield, stayed there for the next morning we head out again. time, we went halfway across the field because we had to wait for those people that were coming in from the east side to catch up with a solid line.
we then in that valley, spent about two or three we finallyhen got to that ridge. way through most of it as possible. places youe couldn't even climb up. so we found our boat, we found our way, we found that going up. and my company stayed on this side in the valley. up ahead to find other units i was delivering to.ages when i'm receiving anything, leave my companion code talker at the radio, close by. we never stayed with the radio because that's the first thing that they would be wanting to hit. they find a beam on it, it's where they unload
everything. and so we stayed away. by within hearing distance. those three passwords would come on, job.we would do our and as soon as the messages movedomplete then we back to the same positions. that's how we moved with the company, close to the c.p. unless we were given extra duties. sometimes, it's not heavy fighting or heavy mission, sides or on the even behind, then we could about. >> well thinking about it and recollecting various on it, my
is second to this preparation, walking all the way across the island, breathing spell, come all the way across on side. looking at part of this, i side across.st not in this field, but field across. know what this and ittion was for was to be stopping in place bomb, all the way and new mexico to here in preparation for the japan, so i
thought about it. didn't really think too much about it, other than about time they did -- the americans did something than just taking one warding ustime, off. maybe a little itch here, a little itch there. were not getting any feedback from that to say we're accomplishing something. until we got this far. i started my long journey across the states and various returning home and
somehow i thought that i visit japan and korea. so the only thing was i enlisted in the army because to see them driving while i was walking out here. and sure enough, they gave of rides, all the way from san francisco to schoola, went to there, finished and then they offered me a special assignment to europe and i enoughhaven't seen of what i really was going korea.japan, or theirad them change mind. see how the setup was if we were to have
gone to japan. was worse than what i had here. it would have been a slaughter, for us, for got in our way. men, allildren, ages. been ad have measurable outcome for both of us. our enemies and us. because there were tunnels. i went to some of those the friendsse that i had during my stay in japan were eager to show me some of the preparations made, some of had.ideouts they
muchat time -- too about it because most of the days that i was out with a specialas holiday for them, cherry blossoms and whatnot. and i didn't think much about it, but i still had mind that i would know something about it and kept rolling back, supposing i come with some my surviving friends. havended, how we would faced the enemy. we would not have known who our enemy. elders?dren, women, or all? and the tunnels that they preparation if we should ever decide to land.
and from time to time across people asked me are you glad that they to endbomb was used the war? i tell them i hate to had found out, that it would have been a miserable life for myself, for anybody that survived, both the americans and the japanese. japanese empire would have been torn apart and we have also been torn than iwo jima and some of the other places had difficulties. as much as death means to the people on both
was good to have did, because i end of have seen the the complete war. to korea, in was out there for two years. korea was just getting over their torture and some of turmoils between them and the japanese. and they thought i was a korean. quite often they would ask me how long did you stay in the united states to learn language? i said i was there all that time. like us. look oh, yes, i said, i probably you when my folks left tibet or left
korea. the only trouble is the my people went, our so we haveder some similarities, we have ways whichional are identical. so those of you that are a good thing america used atomic bomb when they did rather than us intothe rest of a death march, worse than march.th many of us would have never the rising sun again from there. a traditional family background.
sometimes, if i was asked to at night, i was without knowing that area, itin of the helped me to travel at without being heard by .he enemy sometimes, cow might get killed for chewing cud the road.of and i, not knowing the exact it helpedf my -- walk into the post.nd, the command usually, four circles,
six, sevenfive, circles to get to the command post. you by-pass, there's someone awake to challenge you. and it helped me to remember my code password was. hesitation i would respond to it. and even tt helps me. thoseember some of , like when i was got killed. had shellse when i j the box that i was then,
ust stirred up some sand. it didn't go off. things like that. language is the powerful. with the help of our spiritual father. inremembered to talk to him the morning, noon, and night, with difficulties. assists you to stay calm, happeningsall of the going around you. that is how deeply affected me. even today. night, whenhe other
i made a whistling sound, and i said that is part of the codewords. people that,y tell that was to tell our spiritual father, when i talked to the people, so the people can understand what i am talking about. this grandson, i grew up with that in the beginning. no matter if i don't understand is language, when the man talking to his spiritual father, quietly untilself
i am with the man that is talking with you. yes, my grandson, that is my guideline. down a place go like this, because you don't man that was in charge, the man that was responsible for the city got out , and so to do anything to it, i would have to sprinkle white cornmeal and walked down. i honor you for fighting for your country. i honor your spiritual life, even though you were my enemy,
you have been in a place where a and soe this happened, that is the only way that i would go down here come up with the white cornmeal or corn powder, because he left his footprints here inside, even though you and i do not see it now, but in his life, he did that. as warriors, as want -- thosel that have done outstanding, as well as life, respectable work. so, yes, there have been
probably a great man to have done this, to have lived here, for his country. after we went to the keys and took them out with the belongings as well as some of the wounded, we came back to that place in the afternoon. one that came back from the beach, and then we came on up, the slope down below that hill where we came up on them. we did not get to the top right away. wereung around until we down the slope, and the rest of
the unit swung around the foothills of this hill. we did not bother with this top, we just went around, and and on, and the unit was going upad, and our company stayed ridge, because we were waiting for the information to move on in which direction into the sugarcane field. aile we were waiting, we had machine gun fire from across the -- was with us, and we were fired upon, 14th fire, a the artillery
unit that was already down below us. they wanted to fire, but they had outdone, and they had gone into the next unit, the next area. by areasgoing fro from here on, because it was on the other side of the hill. so could not see the land, we had to designate specific locations on the map, and so without giving the location, they requested firing assistance from the artillery, and they fired short. andwithin our own unit, there was no way to get in contact with the 14th marine artillery unit, because there was no code talker with them. so we had to go the long way, the english road, to get to them
to tell them they are firing on our own unit, and that is when they ceased firing, and we moved up to the ridge, the company moved on up to the ridge, and we were waiting to advance, and there again, we were fired upon with a machine gun from across the ridge, and we had requested to help us take that out. first, they tried an air person, because a lot of firing was coming from underneath the building. they tried an air burst, but only the chickens came out. so more chickens came out the window. then they put some pressure on the bottom.
that is when they quit. at the same time, there was a cruiser off the shore on that side, off the peninsula, and we were being fired on, and we could hear the communication, where the firing was coming from , so we had to direct it from where we were. range, where it was coming from, by the map. and then the first firing that they did was above, so many miles ahead, and we asked them to lower it, and two quick shots from the cruiser, that stopped it, and we went down below into the wheat fields.
fieldscome into the, uh, that were below us. and our unit was gradually working up about halfway across the peninsula. there was a unit on the other side, but we did not know who they were. just movedere on, we back and forth, and the regiment, my 23rd regiment was following us. move, theywe would would move behind us come all whenay across, and that is we ran into some night fighting into the sugarcane fields, and it became very useful this way. it was easy to travel along, even though sometimes we have heavy equipment firing from the ridge.
i was up on top when i heard at the range here and also at the beach, and i heard about them being discouraged from jumping over, and some even went as far as they managed to get to the beach to drown themselves in the ocean after making preparations. and the american ships were out there, the one that was discouraging them to do, but eiry had already made th commitment to their world. it -- anythingnk -- if they were sincere, nothing
them, after making preparation, combing their hair, making themselves full of make up and either walking in or amping, including putting death to their children first, committing the same for themselves. the way of life. i have not heard anything since the of such an ending. but making contacts with the the world comef up various people, there is a feeling, that they
were completely, to me, the way reading from their minds and reading from their actions that they were isolated. but today, that has changed. respond to our gladly respond to our voice, whatever measure it is. sadness is had. of course it can also be altered with the change of the mind, a lifestyle of humans. that is how i look at it. seen the officers in
doing similar with the natives. a couple of them back up in here. was the one that brought -- i was led back to the regiment headquarters from the company when i saw some natives. me, iame up alongside of know they were natives, they stopped there, and they wanted to get down to the headquarters, me, butd them to follow i did not see the japanese officers that was with the
group. thisss they already have plan, the japanese officers whendy had the plan, so they went, they came into the headquarters, and they were told to wait out in the open. i guess they would be interrogated later on. either that or in the morning. :00, -- 4:00, i guess the officers, the natives, they had listened to the japanese, so they pulled them together, just like this in a circle, and they talked slowly to them in a low two ofand two of them, the officers had grenades.
bang. people just -- there was no way to overcome that. killed all of them, including themselves. when they got closer to the beach, that is when the word came back, how the word came back to those of us that were on top. it historicalds of the various islands, the japanese, particularly the men, whenmilitary they could not complete a victory, when they could not complete it, that was it.
so many japanese that came back , to china and the islands us americans, they were heroes come into their country people, but to them, to their parents, it was a disgrace to them. and i, some of my contacts with ,ome of the people in japan a lot of returned japanese military men who are homeless. >> you are watching interviews with world war ii navajo code talker albert smith. conducted between 2004 and 2006 for a documentary project, "navajo code talkers: journey of remembrance." the interviews took place at his home in new mexico and on the pacific island battlefields,
where he talked with other code talkers and their families. it is not too easy to put into words the experience en and all the experience i have today. the two are quite an adventure, quite distant. memoriesstill a lot of , butbrings that the light the good result of the adventurous the changes that we , theseen on the land surviving the people
and arriving at the rich culture as they were rebuilding. being happy, also looking from the experiences that they have gathered, and then the exchange between the code talkers and the natives, which was really rebuilding. you could see that, among all those that we met. so this was quite an opening for whom weor the people talk with. we had quite an exchange, not only in words, but physical
expressions, a change of ideas, men call when the scene, we hadast what we had tog experience and what i had and ource, atetherness, we had arrived an agreeable end to actions, exchange their emotions, through our nonverbal expressions, which prayedlly, uh, how he the same had done -- ideas, that we did not have to use words.
quite often, i sensed those interchanges of people from time to time as we go about our travels. george: on able regime of, you went out of your way -- on iwo jima, you went out of your way to great japanese. mr. smith: i talked with each one of them. i shook hands with them, and i told them have a good day, good morning, good evening, enjoy your life. to all, and atnd first they were a little hesitant. go ahead. mr. smith: yes, i did, i went to the side where the japanese were
seated, but at first they were a little hesitant to greet me. but as i went from one individual to another, i, uh, snensed that they were willing o wellness, the greetings, a happy ending to really having, memorial services. with a different, a separate purposes, but it brought us a little closer together, even when they did to military men, who were representing japan. tried to have them
understand that there was also a purpose, not only remembering the ones that have departed. you went on this trip. we had a rather insensitive experience, five different islands that we visited and so on. you often talk about the spiritual in nature of your culture and so on. anything to your spiritual feelings about war, your culture, your language, atr language in wartime, wartime that was designed ultimately to come to the day where there was peace again? rather is a racially
to some groups over there, league you were the spokesperson as president of the association. so i felt a really strong spiritual element to your visit their. maybe you can explain that for our audience a little more. mr. smith: yes, there was -- well, there was one of my purpose, not only as a leader but i understand the human , of people, that there is a deeper spirituality in us, the exchange more readily, so that i was able to
speak to all on the same, uh, same content of myself to them, not only representing my family thealso representing country that i represent. and a purpose for our return visit, what we were trying to have people understand, that we are at the basic, we spiritual life. portraying at was the same time, that i am a isrior, but yet inside of me a spiritual individual. this moment, the
last question is -- tell us what threent to you to visit of the islands with your grandson. tell us the importance of that the nows an elder in own nation. sen. wyden: mr. smith: well i was, i had to recall what he got into on tinian, so when we went over i was showing him that there were items that we did not get into, that you have to respect who had been there, learning the footprints, which was not cleared, that to honor who had ever lived there, to be
there, tot, to get footstep, iat would have to put a corn pollen to show that i respect him, even though he has left, that i could walk behind the footprints that he had left, but i respect him as a warrior, we respect each other, even an enemy. recall in that discussion that you chose not to go down in that bunker for that reason, right? mr. smith: yes, that is right. george: what you were sharing with nathan, some of your cultural beliefs, is that right? mr. smith: that is right.
george: why don't you mentioned that, say something like -- we did not go into that bunker, and so one, explain to us what happened there. the reason i -- this isoned to you that a special place, a hallowed place, a pathway of a person who had departed, that it was his place, and so we honor by ,especting his last footsteps the remains of his life. might have been many years that he had left, but it is still a hollow place. george: tell us a little bit
and bringing my past or moral of turmoil of the world and bringing it to eight present life -- a present life. under a certain faraway distance, such turmoil still exists. m to understande some of the feelings that we went through, that i have gone through, that they have gone , it will enrich them, to certain degrees, both my daughter, my grandson. sometimes i get those turmoils lives, but yetur , theyrstand the emotions
understand a certain amount of it, and the same way with my grandson. and with the assistance, with my assistance, my wife, sometimes down for him, for her. sometimes those -- it is just like a popcorn. one thing that came back to my , i recall what my elders had mentioned to me after i came back from the service, and that questionssked me some , and i could only answer two -- didially -- and one was,
you bring back some war pictures? and i told them very little, because we were only allowed to have so many pictures taken of us. and the other one was, did you bring back some war stories? yes, i said, i have some war stories. my next question was, did you bring back the smell of war? i said no. did you bring back the taste of war? i said no. and did you bring back the feeling of war? eel?does war f those questions i could not answer. i said no. and then one of the suggestions they made to me was, leave the
war stories where it was, where it happened. don't bring it home. uh, i thought about that for many years. why they would ask me to do hear, couldcould war and feel some of the stories, some of the war activities. uh, until that colorado, what the children were doing with their playmates, to their classmates, to their friends, and it happened in tennessee, actually, it happened in arizona
then whenco, and ,wind talker" was being filmed it happened again in san diego. answered myn they question, the children answered the question, what the elders were telling me, and i remember during my discharge, all of the code talkers were asked not to reveal what we did during the war. and -- [clears throat] -- the same connotation, the same connections was not to reveal but it was more
revealing to me of what my elders had asked me, to leave behind, because of what the children did to their playmates, that answered my questions. that it was not good for the to know about the war, the feeling, because they were looking for the feeling of war, the taste of war, and the third was the feeling, the smell of war, and the taste of war, they were looking for that when they killed their playmates.
they wanted to know how it feels to kill somebody. they wanted the smell of war. and the third items, they were being misled by the tv, the things shown. know my grandson probably felt some of those things, too, that it is not good for children even though they can that they havend been shot, first a feeling, but not as real, in reality.
so, ah, my elders had more, the present than generation, no matter how modern you put it into, the exchange items never really come out, the smell of war, the taste of war, it really never comes out. to give them a sense that it is not good for them to know. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> this six-part series continues next week when we hear tso, and the program airs next saturday at 2:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv. you can watch today's program again and others of this series
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