The Other September 11 Massacre

We will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.  We will never forget that awful day and we pay tribute to all those who suffered and perished on that day.

However, that was not the first terror attack on American soil to occur on that date.  On September 11, 1857, another group of homeland terrorists massacred 120 unarmed men, women, and children in a meadows area 153 miles northeast of Las Vegas. In what has become known as The Meadows Mountain Massacre.


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( Video: The truth about Mountain Meadows, Utah: (Jerry Skinner Documentary)- Probably the best non-political video I found that explains in great detail the entire story of the Meadows Mountain Massacre.  The actual massacre starts at about the 4:00 mark )

It Starts in Arkansas

It was a wagon train headed for California. They started out several months earlier out of Arkansas, known as the Baker-Fetcher party. one of the wealthiest wagon trains to travel west at that time.  It would consist of 40 wagons and over 1,000 head of livestock plus valuable goods and money.

After more than three months on the trail in the early part of August, the train reached Salt Lake, Utah where they had the plan to rest and restock and recuperate as other trains had done in the past. The Mormon Church and their prophet, as well as the governor of the Utah Territory, Bringham Young, had other plans.

September 11 massacre

The site of the Meadows Mountain Massacre

The Perfect Storm

Unfortunately for them, they had entered Mormon Territory at a time we would now call “the perfect storm”.  They were unaware of the growing battle between the Mormon Church and its leader, Bringham Young, and the United States Government.  Not to mention Bringham Young’s anger towards anyone from Arkansas for killing one of their apostles earlier in the year.

The Mormon leadership gave orders that no supplies or aid were to be given to the wagon train in Salt Lake City. The wagon train was forced to continue along a southern route through Utah.  Coming to rest 275 miles south of Salt Lake City and 35 miles southwest of Cedar City, the closest town to them.

On September 7, 1857, the wagon train pulled into a peaceful-looking valley known as Meadows Mountain. They were all tired, running low on supplies, and needed to rest before they started over the mountain and into the Mojave desert on their way to the promised land, California.  Meadows Mountain offered them plenty of watering holes and plenty of grass for the cattle to graze.

For the travelers, they were looking forward to a little rest themselves. It’s been a long journey and the Mojave desert was not going to be an easy trek.

No Rest For the Weary

They didn’t even have any time to do their normal circle the wagons for safety before the first attack came out of nowhere. Mormon settlers belonging to the Utah Territorial Militia (officially called the Nauvoo Legion), together with the Southern Paiute Native Americans were starting to attack them from all sides.  Killing several members of the wagon train.

The fighting continued almost non-stop for the next few days.  Each day, the fighting was more Mormon Militia, less Piute Indians. The marksmanship of the Arkansas wagon train members apparently was much better than the Indians had expected and their losses were too heavy!

Then on the morning of September 11th, a troop of Mormon militia approached the wagon train under a white flag of truce.  The Mormon spokesman was none other than John D Lee.  John Lee was a major in the militia and, more important he was the spiritual adopted son of Brigham Young! Leader of the Mormon Church.

Edit: The Mormons at the time, practiced polygamy.  Since multiple marriages were against United States law, each wife after the first was considered the “spiritual” wife and her children were “spiritual adopted”.  Brigham Young had 56 children by 16 of his wives)

Surrender Comes Murder

It was John Lee’s job to convince the wagon train defenders that a deal had been struck with a Paiute for their safe passage and protection under the Mormon militia back to Cedar City, if they would leave their wagons and possessions behind.

With dwindling supplies and heavy casualties, the wagon party had little choice but to agree to the surrender. They were divided into three groups.  The wounded and sick were placed in the first wagons and they headed out. When out of sight, the second wagon filled with women and children over six were loaded in another wagon and they headed out.  When they were out of sight, the men were forced to walk in single file behind the wagons with an armed Mormon guard walking beside each man supposedly to serve as protection from the Paiute.

After traveling close to a mile from where they had left their wagons a command was given by a Mormon leader for Mormon guards to do their duty. This was a pre-arranged signal from each militia member to shoot and kill the person walking beside him.  At the same time, others were assigned to kill the wounded and others to kill the women and children.

In less than one half-hour, one hundred and twenty men, women and kids were massacred.  The 17 small children (under 6 years of age) were spared because they were deemed to be too young to remember or to understand what was taking place.  All these children were later placed in Mormon homes.

The victims were stripped of their clothing and belongings and buried in shallow graves.  Their livestock, wagons, and possessions of value were divided between Mormon families (mostly church leaders).  As a sign of welcomed participation,  some of the cattle were given to the Paiute Indians. Some of what was left were sent to Salt Lake City.

The Trials

In later interviews, Major John Lee would state that a vow of silence was taken by everyone who participated in the massacre.

For years,  the Mormon Church put blame and responsibility for the massacre on the Indians.  Then on July 23, 1875, in Beaver, Ut, before a jury of eight Mormons and four non-Mormons.  The trial ended with a hung jury (no clear guilt or innocence verdict)

The truth about Mountain Meadows

Visiting the site is not for the faint of heart. The feelings are still there

After an agreement between the Mormon Church, Bringham Young, and the United States government, there was a second trial held on September 13, 1876, before an all-Mormon jury. This trial placed all the blame and all the evidence supplied by the church pointed to John D Lee as the man who planned, directed and orchestrated the entire massacre, without the permission or help of the Church.  (yea, right!)

History of the Meadows Mountain Massacre Memorial

To say that the Mormon church did not want to admit any responsibility in the massacre.  For years they fought against any type of memorial to the event Bringham Young and others had been know to have destroyed any markings put up on the site.

In 1998, Following a visit of Church President Gordon B. Hinckley to the Meadows, the Church announced plans to improve their property in the area, which included replacing a 1932 memorial wall. Work began on the monument in May 1999, with much of it being contributed by a local Enterprise LDS Ward.

History of the Meadows Mountain Massacre Memorial

The official monument was dedicated on September 11, 1999, the 142nd anniversary of the massacre. 1,000 people attended, including President Hinckley, locals, and many descendants.

A majority of the Mountain Meadows massacre site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been since 1975; the site was also designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.

In 2015, the boundaries of the national historic landmark designation were expanded to include a third parcel of land, which includes the area believed to be where the women, children, and wounded were killed.

Resources

The A380’s Never Saw Las Vegas

When I first arrived in Las Vegas, I was a chauffeur on the Strip. As a blossoming aviation geek (AvGeek), I loved being sent to the airport for an inbound international flight. That meant I would have time to just sit and ogle all the cool jets coming and going.  Especially the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747. That was my all-time favorite plane to spot.

I swear I used to be able to set my watch by the landing of British Airways 747 into Las Vegas.  The wheels would cross the fence line on Eastern Ave at exactly 4:45 pm almost every Mondy, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m not sure if it was always the same pilot, but whoever it was, they were the most dependable, on-time flight at McCarran!

In 2007 Airbus introduced the Airbus A380.  A widebody jet they thought could beat the 747 in size, capacity, and travel business.  However, the one problem with the jet was with its weight, its wide-body, and massive Rolls-Royce engines, it was limited to only a few airports here in the USA.

This limitation was mainly due to the turbulence caused as this massive piece of flying machinery came in for a landing.  No other jets could be anywhere near its flight path. Not to mention what it took to maneuver this beast around the tarmac!

McCarran International Airport (LAS), with its closeness to population, surrounded by tall buildings, as well as just being a very busy airport, banned the plane from landing here except for emergency purposes.

Airbus A380

Two Skybridges to help load and unload mega jets faster

However, when constructing the new terminal three in 2012, they took into consideration the future of the jumbo jet and built two gates specifically to serve an A380 or similar jet.  They built the gates with two skybridges. The A380 at 550 to 800 passengers, is truly a double-decker plane and would need at least two jetways for faster loading and unloading.  I bet you never noticed that, did you??

The A380 Never Landed Here

Las Vegas, with its millions of tourists from all over the world flying in here, we see just about every type of plane imaginable from every corner of the globe. Even the Concorde and the Russian Antonov An-225 Mriya — flew into McCarran.

Being Las Vegas and being the entertainment capital of the world, you would expect that such a plane like the A380 would have made at least one appearance here.  But nope!  The A380 has never landed here.

However, they do/did land into LAX.  In 2018, Los Angeles International Airport was handling on average, about 14 A380 flights per day.  Being Las Vegas and being located in the middle of the Mojave desert, we are designated as an emergency landing field for LAX and we could handle the A380’s.

I actually got excited last year when I heard there was a chance to finally see one here in Las Vegas.  Right before COVID hit, there was a request made by British Airlines to have two of them land here as a charter for CES Weekend.  This was to be a test for future scheduled flights.  But obviously, that never happened.  Both Virgin and BA have since mothballed or sold all of their A380’s and almost all of their 747’s. So no need to talk about that!

Emirates A380

That’s just one huge piece of flying engineering!!

The A380 will Never Land Here

With COVID lockdowns, the near-death of air travel, and now the ingrained fear of ever being able to sit or stand next to another person, the need for such a large jet no longer exists.

The last A380 rolled off the assembly line in France in August of 2020.  Of the 272 built since 2005,  Emirates, the airline owned by the government of Dubai, owns 122 of them and is taking delivery in November of the final three planes ever built.

With over half of the A380’s existing being owned by an airline that doesn’t fly into Las Vegas and the other airlines mothballing or scraping them as we speak, that makes the chances of Las Vegas-based AVgeeks seeing this big bird land here slim to none. And that’s kinda sad to know…

Boeing 747:
1969 – 2022
1,565 built

Airbus A380
2005 – 2021
272 built

Am I the only one who is sad to not see this in Las Vegas?

 

Zion and Other National Parks to Be Busy this Holiday Weekend

I will admit that I am partial to Zion National Park when it comes to social media. They just seem to have it dialed in when compared to other national parks I keep track of. They are often fun, informative, and fact-filled nuggets of useful information about the park, the history, the people, and its activities.

For one thing, Ziona has to be the most land-locked National Park in the Southwest.  What I mean by that is its natural design as a narrow canyon that makes it so difficult to handle the crowds.  Unlike other National Parks that are canyon-formed, Zion has no room to expand in order to more easily handle the crowds or to move all the people around.

For that problem, I like to blame Ken Burns!  Zion was truly a nice little hidden Vegas Gem few people even knew about.  That was until the filmmaker went and told all the entire world about it and the other wonderful National Parks in his 2016 PBS documentary Ken Burns: The National Parks – Americas Best Idea.   Now everyone wants to come out and see this little canyon!

Being Labor Day Weekend is usually one of the busiest, Zion National Park put out a press release explaining to those people brave enough to visit this magnificent little gem of a Park this weekend;  What to look forward to and how best to maneuver the crowds.

This actually makes for a great primer for those of you thinking of visiting other National Parks.

(Bolded text in press release added by me for emphasis…)

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SPRINGDALE, UT – Zion National Park is expecting a busy Labor Day weekend from Friday, September 3 through Monday, September 6, 2021. As our nation honors American workers, many will visit Zion and other National Parks across the country. Visitors to Zion should expect some queues and congestion within the park. Those with flexible plans are encouraged to visit before Friday or after Monday to avoid crowds.

Park visitors are reminded to recreate responsibly and plan ahead. Visitors, employees and contractors are required to wear a mask in NPS buildings, shuttle buses, and crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels.

Parking in Zion typically fills by 8:00 a.m. MDT, so visitors arriving later should plan on parking in Springdale and walking or taking the free town shuttle to the Pedestrian Entrance walk-in gate. The shuttle is free and masks are required. The first Springdale shuttle leaves the Majestic View Lodge (Stop 9) at 7:00 a.m. and the last shuttle leaves the Zion Canyon Village (Stop 1) at 9:00 p.m. The first Zion Canyon shuttle leaves the Visitor Center at 6:00 a.m., the last shuttle leaves the Visitor Center at 5:00 p.m., and the last shuttle out of the canyon from the Temple of Sinawava leaves at 8:15 p.m. Once parking in Zion is full, vehicle admittance into the park will be metered based upon availability. The Zion Mount Carmel Highway may be closed to through traffic periodically when parking has filled in order to safely relieve congestion both east and west of the large tunnel and to restore traffic flow. Alternative routes include: Utah Highway 59 /Arizona Highway 389, Utah Highway 14, and Utah Highway 20.

Both campgrounds in Zion Canyon are on a reservation system and are already fully reserved for the weekend. Campground and lodging options are available in the gateway communities surrounding the park. Please plan your trip accordingly.

This Labor Day weekend, Friday through Monday, park staff will be managing the queue that usually forms at Scout Lookout for visitors wanting to hike Angels Landing. Visitors will instead queue in the Grotto area and be metered on to the trail by park staff. This will reduce crowding on the chains section and allow visitors to wait at the Grotto where there are restrooms, running water and shade. Lines of several hours are possible, so hikers should be prepared. Hikers who want to stop at Scout Lookout or continue up the West Rim Trail without hiking the chain section to Angels Landing will not be required to wait at the Grotto. Park visitors are reminded to “Know before you go”; research the park and the activity you plan to do and potential hazards you may encounter, be realistic about your limits and the limits of those traveling with you, identify the right equipment for your trip and test it and/or try it out before you go. Visitors should be prepared to hike in the heat, with plenty of water, electrolytes, and proper footwear.

Zion National Park visitors are reminded that there is a severe drought, and everyone needs to be smart in their actions when it comes to having a campfire. Be sure any campfire area is clear of debris and your fire is out cold before you leave. Campfires are only allowed in South Campground, Watchman Campground and Lava Point Campground in fire rings at the campsites. For more information on preventing unwanted human caused wildfires, visit www.utahfiresense.org, and on Twitter @UtahWildfire.

Monsoon season runs from mid-July to mid-September. Flash floods are unpredictable and can occur from storms some distance away though skies appear sunny overhead. Check the weather forecast or stop by park Visitor Centers for up-to-date information. Your safety is your responsibility.

Zion National Park will enhance the enforcement of impaired driving over Labor Day Weekend through expanded DUI checkpoints and increased road patrols for visitor safety. Zion National Park’s DUI enforcement is aimed to keep all visitors, local residents, and wildlife safe on the park’s roads. Impaired driving in Zion is especially dangerous due to the narrow roads, steep drop-offs, and sharp turns.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired driving crashes killed 10,767 people in 2016, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. That’s an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 50 minutes.

Zion National Park Rangers wish for all visitors to have an enjoyable and safe visit to the park. This includes obeying all traffic laws, driving sober, and appointing a designated driver if you plan on consuming alcohol.

The NPS requests visitor cooperation utilizing Leave No Trace (LNT) practices throughout Zion National Park. Following these LNT principles and tips helps to protect the natural and cultural resources of Zion National Park during your visit. The park also encourages visitors to take the Zion National Park Pledge. The Zion Pledge is a personal promise you can make to protect yourself and the park. Please share your #ZionPledge story on social media and encourage family and friends to do the same.

Current Mask Policy For Las Vegas Airlines

Did you know that Las Vegas’ main airport, McCarran International Airport, is the 8th busiest airport in the United States?  In a normal year, over 40 million travelers will pass through its gates!

In the midst of this COVID pandemic, no matter your thoughts or feeling on this issue, each airline has a mandatory policy about wearing masks. Who needs to wear them, how to wear them and what is an acceptable mask to wear.

I thought it was time to look at the current mask policy for each of the five top airlines serving Las Vegas.  This was the current policy of each named airline to the best of my knowledge as of this date. Please understand that these policies will change frequently, so Please check with the airline you are planning to fly for up-to-date information.

As of this writing and to the best of my research, here are the mask policies of the top five airlines serving Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Southwest Airlines Las Vegas

1. Southwest Airlines:

This is the world’s largest low-cost carrier airline and the busiest airline at McCarren Airport. They have 121 scheduled destinations in the United States and ten additional countries.

Here is how they manage mask policy to ensure your better health.

1.1 Do You Need to Wear a Mask at Southwest Airlines?

According to federal law, from age 2 to above, all are required to wear a face mask. You need to wear it at the airport, throughout the flight, deplaning, and departure. A face mask should be snugly fitted against the sides of the face. It must cover the nose and mouth properly. Whether you are vaccinated or not, face masks are mandatory for all.

1.2 What types of face masks are allowed at Southwest Airlines? 

They have allowed these types of face masks:

  • N95
  • Medical respirators
  • Cloth mask made with two or more layers of washable and breathable fabric.
  • Neck gaiters or multi-bands, if it has two or more layers. Otherwise, fold it to make two layers.
  • Clear mask or cloth mask with a plastic panel – It will help communicate with a hearing-impaired person or those who need to see the speaker’s mouth to understand speech.

If you refuse to wear the mask, it will be considered a violation of federal law. It may result in denial of boarding, removal from the aircraft, and/or penalties under federal law.

1.3 How Can You Take a Flight at Southwest Airlines If You Want Exemption from Face Covering?

If you can’t wear a mask because of disability, several conditions apply that must be adhered to before traveling to get the exemption. Know those conditions here.

Spirit Airlines Las Vegas

2. Spirit Airlines 

Spirit Airlines is the second busiest airline flying into Las Vegas.

Here is their mask policy to keep the passengers safe during travel.

2.1 What’s Regarding Face Masks at Spirit Airlines?

Like most other airlines, from age two and above, you are required to wear a face mask. They work according to Federal law and require the customer/traveler/guest to wear an appropriate face covering at airports and flights.

2.2 What Type of Face Mask Can You Wear at Spirit Airlines?

A face mask that fits snugly is allowed at Spirit Airlines. It must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin.

Your mask must have at least two layers of fabric. So, your face mask can be a disposable non-medical face mask, multi-layered cloth face covering. If your mask contains mesh material or valve, is open-chin triangle bandanas or only face shield without wearing a mask will not consider as a face covering.

2.3 What If You Can’t Wear a Mask Due to Disability? Do Spirit Airlines Allow You Exemption from Face Covering? 

Yes, they allow. Spirit Airlines will interpret and vet through a strict approval process if that disability is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Know this disabilities list and much more related here.

They require you to ask them for face mask exemption 48 hours prior to the scheduled departure. You need to come 3 hours before the flight so that medical experts screen you and decide about face mask exemption.

You are not permitted to remove the mask at the airport or during the flight just because you find mask-wearing difficult.

3. Delta Airlines:

Delta Airlines is renowned for its domestic as well as international flights, founded in 1925, 96 years ago. This airline is offering flights to 300 destinations in 60 countries.

Here are their mask policies to make this possible.

3.1 When Need to Wear a Face Mask When Traveling at Delta Airlines?

According to federal law and Delta Airlines policy, all customers, partners, and employees are instructed to wear a mask all time. It means, from entering the airport, using public transit, boarding, during the flight, and deplaning, you must wear the mask. Whether you are vaccinated, Delta Airlines still want you to wear the mask for your better safety.

3.2 Which Types of Face Masks Are Allowed at Delta Airlines?

This is the most anticipated question when talking about masks. People are truly concerned about picking a suitable mask with their clothes that look perfect on them. So, here is the answer.

Delta Airlines only allows you these masks:

  • Disposable surgical or medical masks
  • N95 or KN95 – Valve-free respirator masks
  • Tightly woven fabric cloth masks. 2 or 3 ply masks are recommended.
  • Fabric masks with a clear plastic window and gaiters with two layers; if yours contains single-layer gaiters, it should be doubled over.

Any mask with an exhaust valve is not acceptable in Delta or Delta connection-operated flights.

3.3 Are Children Required to Wear a Face Mask?

For children and their parents’ ease, children under the age of 2 are not required to wear a face mask.

3.4 Can You Still Take a Flight on Delta Airlines, If You Can’t Wear a Mask or There’s Any Special Requirement for It?

If you are a person with a unique disability, we give you a friendly suggestion to reconsider your traveling decision.

Delta Airlines wants you to complete the ‘Clearance to fly’ procedure before departure at the airport for a smooth flight experience if you still want to go. If you want exemption from mask policies required due to your unique disability, Delta airlines encourage you to come an hour before check-in to complete the procedure and avoid missing the flight. Know further

False claim of any disability to get exemption from mask policies will result in the suspension of travel privileges at Delta Airlines or may be reported to appropriate government authorities.

4. United Airlines: 

United Airlines is the major airline operating a large domestic and international route network spanning cities large and small across the United States and all six continents.

Here are their face covering policy to ensure a healthy environment.

4.1 Do All Customers Require to Wear Masks at United Airlines? If Yes, When?

Yes, all travelers from age 2 to above are required to use a face mask. According to Federal law, you need to wear the mask in the airport, including customer service counters, airport lounges, gates, and baggage claim, and onboard during their entire flight.

4.2 What Type of Face Mask Can You Wear at United Airlines? 

A face mask that is comfortable and perfectly fits and fully covers the mouth and nose with no vents and openings is allowed at United Airlines. Bandanas and face shields alone are not considered as a face covering.

Refusing to wear a face mask is considered a breach of federal law. It may result in a fine that is upto $35,000, or you will not be transported and lose the privilege to travel on United Airlines.

4.3 How Can You Get Exemption from Wearing a Face Mask at United Airlines Because Of Any Medical Condition and Disability?

United Airlines is allowing exemption through a multi-step approach if someone wants exemption due to disability and medical condition. For this, you should submit documents at MaskException@united.com.

You must submit a mask exemption request form 7 days before scheduled departure. It must be filled by your treating medical provider regarding disability and medical condition. Know further

 

5. Allegiant Air:

Allegiant Air is the fourteenth largest commercial airline in North America and one of the low-cost air carriers that operates and schedule charter flights. It is famous for cheap flights & hotel deals on vacation packages to top destinations.

Here’s what their mask policy is to contribute to ensuring the better health of people.

5.1 Do You Need to Wear the Mask at Allegiant Air?

Yes, because they also work according to federal law. You must wear a mask that perfectly fits against the face, covers the nose and mouth, and is secured under the chin. Mask must be made of solid material. Children under the age of 2 are exempt from face covering.

5.2 What Type of Masks Can You Not Use at Allegiant Air?

Any face mask made of mesh or lace means containing holes and containing valve are not allowed. Neck gaiters, bandanas, and face shields alone would not be considered as a proper face covering or an alternative to a face mask.

Refusing to wear the face mask consider a violation of federal law. It may result in denial of boarding, removal from the aircraft, and additional penalties.

5.3 What If You Can’t Wear a Mask Because Of Disability or Medical Condition?

Allegiant Air cares for you. Suppose a person has a disability that can’t allow that person to remove the mask by themselves or have any medical conditions that prevent them from face covering. In that case, Allegiant Air wants you to submit documents at ACAA@allegiantair.com. To get the exemption, you must submit this face mask exemption ten days prior to the flight. Know more.

When Can You Take Off the Mask When on A Flight with Any of The Above 5 Airlines?

Either Delta, Southwest, United, Spirit, or Allegiant airlines all allow you briefly remove face-covering to eat, drink, or take oral medication. But you must wear the face-covering during bites and sips. Prolong removal of face masks is not permitted as it can be dangerous to your health.

 

Final Thoughts

As silly or asinine as these rules are, they are what they are and we need to follow them in order to maintain some semblance of “freedom to travel”.  And like the supposed virus itself, these rules will change as the wind blows, so please, once or if you choose an airline to fly, check their individual website for any changes to these rules.

Your thoughts or comments are always welcomed!

 

 

National Navajo Code Talkers Day

Did you know that August 14 was designated as National Navajo Code Talkers Day by President Ronald Reagan in 1982?

Samuel Holiday

Meeting Navajo Code Talker Samuel Holiday. Lady unknown

I can honestly say that one, if not the greatest achievement in my decade-plus as a tour director, is to say that I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting three different Navajo Code Talkers.  In fact, I remember on one tour, arriving at Monument Valley and being told by security that the bus I just watched rollout, had the last surviving member of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers on it.  I  was seriously considering asking my coach driver to turn around and chase that bus down!

Seriously.  How often does one person get to meet real life, in the flesh and blood, war heroes?  Especially ones who never had the proper recognition from a nation that certainly owes their gratitude and maybe even their freedom to what they did for us in World War Two!  Half joking, I always tell guests that if it were not for them, we may be speaking Japanese right now!

Navajo Code Talker?

What always amazed me, and even shamed me was that when visiting the Navajo Nation (Monument Valley) and I would talk of the Navajo Code Talkers, most of my American tour guests were clueless to what and who I was talking about. Meanwhile, many of my foreign guests were anxious to hear more about them. How can they know more about this part of our history than we Americans??

In fact, on my first Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta tour, I had one British guest who served in the US Army,  did the proper salute to three of them at a booth before they autographed the book he just bought.

(And PLEASE do not take the Nicholas Cage Movie “WindTalkers” as any real characterization of who these brave men really were or the positions they were put in….)

Although President Reagan was the first US President to officially recognize and award the Navajo Code Talkers for their efforts and bravery in helping us win World War 2, by the time of the announcement, over half the Code Talkers had passed away, and only a few of the remaining members were healthy enough to travel to Washington for the award ceremony.

In meeting these gentlemen, I noticed no anger at being ignored by our government after their service. No remorse in doing what they did for an ungrateful nation or for maintaining their silence all these years. Like many WW2 Vets, they talked about the life they built after returning from the war and doing what needed to be done to continue preserving what was left of their culture. They accepted their fate and moved on with life.

What was interesting in what these men had to say and what they said in their various books, was that they joined the US Military, not because of their loyalty or feelings of needing to honor our country.

It was just the opposite. They were not going to war to defend us, but to push back against an enemy that did a sneak attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor was supposedly unprovoked.   So the Navajo wanted to push back against that.   The “Your enemy is my enemy” theory.

So even before the Codetalker idea was created, Navajo warriors were joining our military and fighting overseas.

 

Who were the Navajo Codetalkers?

During World War Two, the Japanese military was slaughtering us because they were able to decipher our secret codes as quickly as we transmitted them.  An idea was floated.  To recruit young men from the Navajo Tribe near Flagstaff Arizona, the very people our nation had been trying to exterminate for over 100 years and use them as code talkers.

The Navajo language had never been a written language. we had never mixed war prisons with them as we did other tribes around the United States.  Plus they did not have words for things were doing in the war, like flying planes or dropping bombs.  So they had to use references like birds droppings for planes dropping bombs.

One of the key selling points was that with sending traditional coeds, it could take hours or days for the receiving troops to decode and get the message out to the troops.  With the Navajo, codetalkers could send a message from one codetalker to another and it was deciphered immediately.

The Japanese would have no idea what the jibberish they were hearing when they picked up the transmissions.  Plus this was a top-secret project that only those who needed to know. So even most of the other marines would not know who these men were or why they were there.

The higher up’s in US Military had fought the idea of adding another race into the troop mix as they were just adjusting to allowing African Americans to join the battles.  So they set up a test of 30 Navajo men who would have to pass Marine Basic Training before they could go to the classes to learn the art of code talking.

It was an all-or-nothing deal. All 30 would have to pass marine basic training, the toughest basic training of the US Military. If one failed, they all were to be sent home. On the day they were to leave, one came down with chickenpox.  The Military agreed that was not of his doing, so they let the other 29 go ahead.

Now think about this.  You live in one of the most remote parts of America, you run everywhere to do everything.  You are working from sunup to sundown.  So basic training for these guys was a cakewalk, plus they were well fed every day!  Bonus in their minds!  That caused a few other Marines to grumble about the “redskins” they had to train with!

Contrary to movies like Windtalker, they were never in danger of being executed if discovered. Or that they were always operating safely in the back of the pack.  They fought on the frontlines in some of the fiercest battles we had with the Japanese, going cave to cave, island to island.  To say they saved our backsides would be an understatement…

And that’s where the sad part comes in. Once they returned home, they were not heroes, they did not get to enjoy the benefits of being a war hero or getting any kind of priority in getting government jobs. Their roles as Codetalkers were classified and they were not allowed to talk about it.  Many just went back to their tribal lands and tried to live their life out as they did before the war.

In the end, Native American men from 33 different tribes were used for the program. It is the Navajo and the Navajo Nation that provided the first recruits as well as a majority of the men for the program.