Skip Navigation and Jump to Page Content    The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center  
Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) ABOUT  
Home » Dan Akee

"I didn't plan on being in the war; I just wanted to be in the service --that was in my mind since I was very young." (Video Interview, 2:29)

   Dan Akee
Collection image
Dan Akee [2004]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division
Service Location: Iwo Jima; Saipan and Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands); Marshall Islands; Pacific Theater
Rank: Sergeant Major
View Full Description

Born on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Dan Akee was sent at age six to a boarding school in nearby Tuba City. In 1942, he heard the Armed Forces were recruiting Navajos, but he couldn't pass the physical. Two years later, he volunteered again, passed, and became a member of the Code Talker team attached to the 4th Marine Division. He saw action on four Pacific islands, and by the last, Iwo Jima, he was starting to show the psychological effects of prolonged exposure to combat. After returning home, he had persistent problems with nightmares and took to drinking. When a doctor told him he had a liver disease that would be fatal, Akee stopped drinking and also turned to religion, becoming a minister in the Assembly of God church.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (63 min.)
More like this
»Willing to Serve: American Indians
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Why he chose to enlist in the Marines; since he was young, wanted to be in the service but not necessarily in a war; recruited for the secret code talker program; toughest part of training was learning the vocabulary of terms by heart; they could not carry any paper with them in the field. (03:06) Sent from the U.S. with the 4th Marine Division directly into action on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands; after a rest in Maui, on to Saipan and Tinian; returned to Tinian 50 years later and saw many changes; after another rest in Maui, on to Iwo Jima; not being informed where they would go into combat each time; high casualties on Iwo Jima, including four Code Talkers; on Iwo Jima, he started to break down after all-night shelling; sent back to Maui, where he was at war's end; got to go home immediately, given the points he had accumulated serving in combat. (05:27) After the war, went to school on GI Bill; started having nightmares; tribe tried treating him with traditional medicines and a special ceremony, but that didn't work; took to drinking; doctor told him he had a fatal kidney disease and persuaded him to consider religion to get his life together; has been sober for 47 years. (05:58)
Did not like the way he was treated in boot camp but came to understand how necessary the discipline was; did not think the Marines were discriminatory; Navajos had few adjustments to make to the physical demands. (02:27) Learning how to use radios was an important part of their job; anticipating needs of the unit. (01:08) His unit's Japanese interpreter intercepting word of a nighttime banzai attack; the code talkers passing the word on so that the Marines were ready when the attack came at 3 a.m. (01:36)
Another Navajo, Samuel Holiday, mistaken by sentries for a Japanese; Akee teasing him that they would have to watch themselves now. (01:36) Landing with third wave on Iwo Jima and seeing corpses on the beach; his feelings about war: we should fight only to protect our own shores; unhappy about the current war in Iraq. (02:41) 

Home » Dan Akee
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us