Spokesman-Review.com, December 24, 2000 - Clinton Approves Medals for WWII Navajo Soldiers, Code Talkers
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---- Monday - December 18, 2017 - 11:39:36 AM - Navajo Nation Time ----

Clinton Approves Medals For WWII Navajo Soldiers, Code Talkers
By: The Spokesman-Review.com, AP Wire
Sunday, December 24, 2000

Medals will finally be bestowed upon the men who developed a series of encrypted messages in the Navajo language that were never broken by the Japanese during World War II.

President Clinton signed a bill Thursday (December 21, 2000) that will grant congressional gold medals to the original 29 "Code Talkers" and silver medals to about 300 Navajo soldiers who followed them to the Pacific Theater during the war.

Despite having books written about them, a national day in their honor, a statue in downtown Phoenix and a museum in New Mexico that pay tribute to them, the men were never honored individually by the government.

"This is all very appropriate," said Martin Link, curator of the Navajo Code Talker Museum in Gallup, N.M. "They didn't win the war for the United States, but they certainly played a key role and this is a nice way of saying thank you."

Thomas Begay, 74, a Code Talker in the U.S. Marines 5th Division on Iwo Jima, is not impressed with the honor.

Begay has petitioned Congress for years to honor the code talkers with Medals of Honor. But Sen. Jeff Bingaman, R-N.M., crafted a bill to honor the men with the silver and gold medals instead.

"We should get a medal of distinction, not some medal you could buy at a flea market," Begay said. "If what we did wasn't above and beyond the call of duty, I don't know what is."

Begay said he helped craft many of the encrypted codes used on Iwo Jima and was in the process of devising others to be used in an invasion of Japan before two atomic bombs were dropped, ending the war.

According to Bingaman's office, during the first two days of the battle for Iwo Jima, the code talkers transmitted more than 800 error-free messages that were key in taking out many Japanese artillery and machine-gun positions and monitoring troop movements.

By Harrison Lapahie Jr.
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