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"But the bunch I was with, we worked together - we were always working together, helping each other." (Video interview, 55:21)

   Bill H. Toledo
Collection image
Bill Toledo in uniform, taken from his 2003 interview
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division
Service Location: Bougainville Island (Solomon Islands); Guam (Mariana Islands); Iwo Jima; Pacific Theater
Rank: Private First Class
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Bill H. Toledo hailed from Torreon, New Mexico, and enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1942 together with his uncle Frank Toledo and cousin Preston Toledo, all three of whom would become Code Talkers. After training as a Code Talker, Bill Toledo was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, with whom he first saw combat on November 1, 1943 in the invasion of Bougainville. Toledo and his comrades endured bitter fighting there, but he and the other Code Talkers with 9th Marines were able to demonstrate the value of the Navajo Code on Bougainville, as their commanders came to rely on them to deliver encrypted messages quickly after the older shackle code method proved to be slow and unreliable. Toledo survived another difficult landing on Guam, before also taking part in the invasion of Iwo Jima in February 1945, from where he remembers horrific combat, but also getting to see his uncle Frank Toledo. Throughout his time in the Marines, Toledo remembers that he got along well with the Marines he worked with closely, but did encounter bigotry from Marines outside his section. Toledo struggled with post-traumatic stress symptoms for many years, until his family arranged to host an Enemy Way healing ceremony for him in 1970, a ceremony that lasted for three days. Afterwards, Toledo reported that he no longer had nightmares or experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (17 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (89 min.)
More like this
»Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Veterans
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (17 items)
Completing boot camp with two of his relatives - Preston and Frank Toledo; completing Code Talker training at Camp Elliott, California; being assigned to 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. (03:29) Shipping out to New Zealand in early 1943; moving on to Guadalcanal after the island was secured for jungle training. (04:02) Experiences in the Battle of Bougainville in November-December 1943: landing did not go well; hearing a captured Marine being tortured behind Japanese front line during the first night; being detained by another Marine who thought he was a Japanese soldier on the second day of the battle; having Richard Bond assigned to him as a bodyguard; using the Code for the first time on the second night of the battle with John Kinsel after other encryption method was taking too long to work. (08:41)
Experiences in the Battle of Guam: difficult landing; surviving a banzai attack at night; being shot at by sniper while delivering message as a runner; using Code throughout the battle to direct fire support; sweeping the island a second time to eliminate Japanese guerrillas. (06:36) Experiences in the Battle of Iwo Jima: 3rd Marine Division landed on fifth day of battle; seeing his uncle Frank Toledo on the island, who was a Code Talker with 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division. (04:12) Returning to Guam after Iwo Jima; being told he has enough points to go home, and packing his sea bag a week early; going home on a 30-day furlough - being astonished by the peacefulness of home after the chaos of combat. (09:48)
Memories of the end of the war - celebrations in San Diego where he was stationed. (03:03) Being discharged; finishing his high school diploma using the GI Bill at the Albuquerque Indian School; vocational training at the Haskell Institute in Kansas; getting married in 1954 to his high school sweetheart; worked for Anaconda Company and Homestake Mining Company in uranium mining for 30 years until his retirement in 1985. (02:47) Being asked to speak to students about the Code Talkers for the first time; experiences speaking to people all over the country about the Code Talkers. (01:35)
Remembers the treatment he experienced from fellow Marines - those he worked closely with became friends, but he did encounter bigotry from Marines outside his section; on Iwo Jima he assisted a wounded Marine who had previously made racist remarks to him. (06:23) Childhood in Torreon, New Mexico; losing his parents to freak accidents when he was young; being raised by his grandparents - who were strict and raised him to be hardworking. (09:55) Experiences as a child at boarding school in Crownpoint, New Mexico; being abused by school staff, forbidden from speaking Navajo. (03:14)
Experience in the military taught him to get along in the dominant white culture; how the Code Talkers’ achievements have inspired later generations of Navajos. (02:49) More memories of the captured Marine being tortured by the Japanese on Bougainville; how he and other Marines were trained to protect themselves. (02:42) Struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress for many years; having a traditional cleansing ceremony performed for him, which ended his symptoms. (04:47)
Memories of his close calls during the war; his landing craft was nearly hit by a torpedo at Guam; walking into a Japanese minefield on Guam. (07:16) Remembers lifestyle as a child, and how he always dreamed of getting to travel; shows photograph of him from his time in service. (03:01) 

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  October 26, 2011
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