FARMINGTON, N.M. — Navajo Code Talkers became legendary for using their native tongue during World War II to transmit messages the enemy could not decipher. To this day, they are celebrated at parades and honored at military events nationwide.
They’ve shaken hands with presidents, and their heroics have been portrayed in a major motion picture.
But when they return home to Navajo country, it’s often to something less than Hollywood splendor. Some Code Talkers live without electricity or running water. Others lack central heating. One Code Talker even lives in a house that has been struck by lightning, which is taboo in Navajo tradition. The lightning strike left a mark that is visible above the door.
Recently, a group of Navajo Code Talkers and their families gathered at a community center and expressed their disappointment in the difficult housing conditions many of them face.
They detailed their concerns and frustrations to a Los Angeles Times reporter.
Two code Talkers, their wives, a widow and daughter laid out their grievances. Alfred Newman Sr. and his wife, Betsy, said they feel a bit used when paraded around at events.
“People talk about Code Talkers. They say how famous they are,” Betsy Newman said.
Every person in the room told similar stories.
Anne Tso, widow of Code Talker Samuel Nakai Tso, spoke about how her husband died recently without seeing the dream of his tribe-sponsored home completed.
Across the room, Samuel F. Sandoval, a 90-year-old Code Talker, said his wife must work several jobs to make improvements to their home.
“They don’t feel like they are famous,” Newman said.
Navajo Nation officials think about Code Talkers and invoke them around tribal elections, she said, but otherwise “they forget about us.”
“USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) off Manhattan Island, New York, en route from her builders, Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, for delivery to the Navy in February 1945. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.”
U.S Army Special Forces and SEALs on the ground in the northern Syrian province of Raqa, to aid and assist the Syrian Democratic Forces who are making its push for IS territory north of Raqa city. May 25, 2016.
For the start of Black History Month, learn more about this rare tintype photo found in the Civil War pension file of a United States Colored Troops (USCT) infantryman by @usnatarchives staff here in our new Innovation Hub:
Today’s blog was written by Jesse Wilinski, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Washington, D. C.:
While working on RG 15 Case Files of Approved Veterans’ Pensions Application (Civil War and Later Survivor’s Certificates), 1861-1934 series, I came across a rare object in a Civil War Pension file. It was a tintype of United States Colored Infantryman, Randall Nash. A tintype is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel. It is a rarity to see a photograph, much less a tintype, in a pension file. When found, tintypes are generally removed from the series and stored in the specially protected vault at the National Archives at Washington, D. C.
Randall Nash’s unit was first designated as the 4th Regiment Colored Infantry of Missouri Volunteers and was soon renamed the 68th United States Colored Troops (USCT) Infantry. It was mustered in Liberty, Missouri on January 28, 1864 and mustered out on February 5, 1866. Over two hundred former enslaved men from across Missouri were enlisted in this unit. The 68th travelled to Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Texas, performing duties in the defense of other units.
Nash’s pension file was listed under the name of Randall Talbot, an alias. The tintype was used to identify him, because no one knew Nash by any other name in the 68th USCT. The use of aliases made it difficult for surviving family members to collect pensions. In several cases, former enslaved black men who served during the Civil War would use an alias to prevent recapture or to take on a “free” name.
When I found this tintype, I had pulled the pension file and scanned it at the Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub is new way of capturing information for researchers in a digital format for free and gives the National Archives the ability to put the records online for the public to use. Since this tintype is now in the vault, it is no longer physically available to researchers, but can be accessed through digital images. For assistance with pension files and tintypes, please contact the reference staff at the National Archives at Washington, D.C.