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"We never thought about talking about it. It's just one of those things. The thing had to be done, we did it, that's it - forget about it." (Video interview, 1:09:00)

   Thomas Claw
Collection image
Thomas Claw [2004]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Marine Division
Service Location: New Caledonia; Australia; New Guinea; Palau; Solomon Islands
Rank: Private First Class
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Thomas Claw was born in 1922 near Many Farms, Arizona, and attended boarding school in Fort Defiance through the 8th grade, then Fort Wingate High School. Claw was assigned to the 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, where he worked in the regimental headquarters' operations center. During the Battle of Cape Gloucester, Claw remembers how his fellow Marines’ sense of humor got them through nightly Japanese bombings. In June 1945, he was wounded by a Japanese grenade on Okinawa, earning him the Purple Heart. After the war, Thomas Claw eventually moved to Parker, Arizona and took up farming, and also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a water master for the Colorado River Indian Irrigation Project - in this role he was responsible for the irrigation of 80,000 acres of farmland.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (11 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (85 min.)
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (11 items)
Family history; death of his mother when he was an infant. (05:25) Experiences at boarding school; military-style discipline students faced at boarding school; speaking in Navajo when the staff were not around. (03:39) Dropping out of high school after 10th grade; meeting his wife Barbara; working odd jobs; working at a shipyard in San Francisco; joining the Marine Corps. (07:52)
Enlisting with two other Navajos: Jack Jones and Samuel Sole; finishing boot camp; being assigned to the Navajo Communication School to train as a Code Talker; Navajo Communication School moved from Camp Elliot to Camp Pendleton while he was in training. (05:29) Deploying to New Caledonia, Australia, New Britain, Solomon Islands, Peleliu, and Okinawa; combat on New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa; working in 11th Marine Regiment’s operations center; surviving Japanese aerial bombing while on New Britain. (03:58) Being wounded on Okinawa on June 23, 1945. (11:10)
Emotional aspect of serving in war; memories of his friends that were killed in action. (01:43) Returning from the war and seeing his family again; working at the Marine Corps logistics facility in Barstow, California; moving to Parker, Arizona and becoming a farmer. (07:45) Reports being generally treated well in the Marine Corps, but also recalls examples of discrimination that Native Americans faced. (03:36)
Keeping the Navajo Code a secret; sense of pride in being a Code Talker veteran; discusses Sam Billison’s perspective on Native Americans and patriotism. (03:10) Claw’s proudest accomplishment was instilling the importance of education into his children and grandchildren; grandson becoming the Auditor General for the Navajo Nation. (01:40) 

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  October 26, 2011
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