“I was wondering about all those boys on the beach and thinking about their parents,” said retired Marine Master Sergeant Dan Akee, relating his experience as a Navajo Code Talker during the 1945 World War II invasion of Iwo Jima. Sgt. Akee was the keynote speaker for a special Memorial Day program, “Remembering America’s Heroes,” held at Montezuma Castle National Monument.
After delivering a prayer in Navajo, Sgt. Akee discussed the skills needed to memorize the approximately 555 words in the highly classified code used to communicate locations and information of strategic importance during the Second World War. His duty locations included Saipan, the Marshall Islands, Tinian and Iwo Jima.
The Tuba City, Arizona, resident explained that it took five months to memorize the code, which remained unbroken until declassified in the late 1960s. He emphasized the importance of indigenous language and cultural preservation, noting that the complexities of the Navajo language, with several dialects, made it impossible for the Japanese to decode the system. After the war, Sgt. Akee worked as a Navajo interpreter for the hospital in Tuba City.
Superintendent Kathy Davis presented Sgt. Akee with a replica of the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor he received in 2001 and a World War II era American flag. In attendance were veterans from many areas of the state, including one officer from Sgt. Akee’s own Fourth Marine Division.