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Interview with Dan Akee [n.d.]

Dan Akee:

I'm Sergeant Major -- served with the Marine Corps during the Second World War. And I was born -- they called it Old Coal Mine, in 1922. It's about 16 miles from Tuba City. And I was not born at the hospital, but there's a coal mine camp is what they call it. I was born there. Then when I got to be about 6 years old, I _______ school at the boarding school. You know, so I went to school there. And right now, my age is 82 years old, right now. Then in the year of 1942, they were trying to recruit some Navajo, so I -- I did volunteer in -- into the service. But I was turned down, in -- at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, because of a little problem with my health. So I went back to school in Tuba City. Then, right after the school lets out, I went to Flagstaff. Then I volunteer again. Finally, they sent me down to Phoenix, know, take my physical. And after I took my physical, know, finally I pass. And a -- since I volunteered, they -- I can select the service. So I did, that's when I got to -- to -- into Marine Corps

Carol Fleming:

Why did you choose the Marine Corps?

Dan Akee:

I like their uniform. I heard about they were brave, they were good fighters and all that, and all concerning. I thought I was tough. I was not.

Carol Fleming:

No?

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

Did you find -- you found out you weren't tough when you went to war; is that what you're talking about?

Dan Akee:

No, I just want to be in -- I never even planned to be in the war, know. I just want to be in the service, that's all that my -- in my mind, since I was very young.

Carol Fleming:

How old were you?

Dan Akee:

I was just pass over 18 years old when -- when I first volunteer. That's when I was -- was almost close to 18 year -- I mean, 19 years old. That's when -- when I first volunteered then.

Carol Fleming:

Who did you -- did you volunteer by yourself or --

Dan Akee:

Yeah. Yeah. I kind of lied to my mom that I was drafted. So that's way I got in. I'm not the only one, there's a lot of code talker didn't that say that they -- they were young. Some were 16 when they went in, know. But that time, know, they really didn't care about the -- I mean, the age, know. They -- year. Lied about your age, they accept it. That's way I got in, so -- so I took my boot camp training in San Diego. Within seven weeks, I was clear with my boot camp training. Since I was a volunteer, know, I was eligible to select any branch in the Marine Corps. So this time I was asked a question about what tribe I was in. I said -- I told I Navajo. So that's when they told me that there's some Navajo with a communication -- they don't call the code talker that time. It was called con -- was very secret, confidential, what we were doing. So they sent me to Camp Pendleton, and there was some -- quite a few Navajos there. Some of them -- some -- after my training, I took some tests, and it was really hard, because the words, some were ABC, and it goes into vocabulary. That's the hardest part there. The other, once you learn how to be -- say ABCs, not too hard, but vocabulary, you have -- you have to really learn by heart, because we were told we're not going carry any kind of paper with us, that it's by the -- by the code -- code we got. So that's the reason why they told us that if you make the littlest mistake, you know, might cost somebody's life. So within five months, they sent me -- they were 4th Marine Division, while there's six division in Marine Corps, so this one Marine division was one oversea. So the one division, they informed us about two -- 20,000 men in their service. So -- so they attach me to that 4th Marine Division, that's with 25 other -- no, 23 other Navajos. So they divide us into different -- know, some were in 25th Regiment. I was in 25th Regiment. And there was some 24th Regiment and they also 23rd Regiment. We're not together. They were all different division there. One division in different regiment. So --

Carol Fleming:

Were there -- were there Navajos that you knew?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, because I took training with them five months, I got to know them.

Carol Fleming:

But did you know them before --

Dan Akee:

No.

Carol Fleming:

-- know them --

Dan Akee:

Only about, oh, Samuel Holiday is the only one I know him, not the others. So --

Carol Fleming:

So you knew Samuel Holiday from when you were young boys?

Dan Akee:

I was in school with him. That's how I got to them. And the person that kind of gave me the background, that was John Benally. He was the first ones that went in, because he was a instructor here in Tuba City. He was appointed the recruit for the code talker.

Carol Fleming:

I see.

Dan Akee:

So that's how I got in, through him. You know.

Carol Fleming:

Was he a code talker?

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

So he was -- he trained to be a code talker and then --

Dan Akee:

Yeah. He was --

Carol Fleming:

-- one that became a teacher?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. They sent him -- there's a -- a -- two other Marine, know, they told him to recruit them. So they went around all reservation. John Benally, and I think it was -- they called him, Ross Haskie. He was a -- a football coach here in Tuba City, too. So through them then, that's how I got in.

Carol Fleming:

What was your Navajo name?

Dan Akee:

Red Boy. Tichyii (ph), that was my name.

Carol Fleming:

What did it mean?

Dan Akee:

Tichyii, is a Red Boy.

Carol Fleming:

So --

Dan Akee:

I -- I didn't have no English name, till I got this -- came to school. My brother, my oldest brother, his name was Askkii (ph), that's a boy. So -- so they actually have it -- didn't need -- I told them we have no English name. Then it's when they told us you're -- my brother was Lee. He -- his name is Lee Akee, and you're Dan Akee. That's how we got that -- our name. In 1931, that's when their census -- people went around giving out the names around the reservation. There were a lot people didn't have no name -- English name.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh. So that's -- how old were you when you got -- when they gave you that name?

Dan Akee:

You mean the -- when I got my name?

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

It's when I was born.

Carol Fleming:

But I mean the English name; when did they --

Dan Akee:

Oh, that was in -- when I was only six years old. That's probably about 1928.

Carol Fleming:

Was that difficult when you -- when you were told that that was your name? Was that kind of hard to --

Dan Akee:

No, it was no difficult. No.

Carol Fleming:

You just accept --

Dan Akee:

It was -- it was just -- I know there's some people about the English name, that I heard about, but since -- very important they have a English name, know.

Carol Fleming:

So tell me about school; where did you go to school?

Dan Akee:

In Tuba City.

Carol Fleming:

Was it a boarding school?

Dan Akee:

Boarding school.

Carol Fleming:

And -- and you started when you were six years old? Or --

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

Did they -- did you have to speak English? Or had -- did you know English then?

Dan Akee:

No. What happened was, I didn't start school until I was about 8 years old, because when I came to school, there were a lot of tuberculosis, TB, going around the reservation. And I had that tuberculosis disease. They found out when I came to it, so they sent me to Kayenta. So I spent over there, two years. And that's where I learned my English before I start going -- going -- going to school. Then I after I got cured, know, they sent me back to Tuba City, start school when I was 8 years old.

Carol Fleming:

So you didn't have the experience of -- of not knowing English, and having to be forced to learn English?

Dan Akee:

No, when I came to school, when I only 6 years, I don't know nothing about the English, no, because my family don't know no English. There's nobody that's understand English from my family, so I -- I learn it when I was in the hospital there.

Carol Fleming:

And so was it easy for you to learn English?

Dan Akee:

I catch on, you know, while they talk, and I know how to say, yes, or no, and good morning, something like this. Started with no. And we usually start having class, know. They -- they teach us all _______ +. I got -- got to catch on with my English there.

Carol Fleming:

Tell me about your parents.

Dan Akee:

My parents -- my mother never went to school, and also my father never went to school. And that's how mostly I was raised there, without no English.

Carol Fleming:

But -- but I'm sure they had learning of a different type.

Dan Akee:

Huh?

Carol Fleming:

They had different -- a different kind of learning?

Dan Akee:

Well, it -- only Navajo word -- Navajo language, that's the only one they know.

Carol Fleming:

What were they -- what did they do? Were they farmers?

Dan Akee:

We have a -- we raise sheep, and also mom -- my mom usually do weaving. Mostly we're living on the -- on our herding sheep, raising our livestock.

Carol Fleming:

Do you remember your grandparents?

Dan Akee:

Yeah, I used to know, but I don't know their name.

Carol Fleming:

Do -- do you remember seeing them?

Dan Akee:

Yeah, I seen them.

Carol Fleming:

Did they tell you stories? Or did you learn anything from them that they said about --

Dan Akee:

No.

Carol Fleming:

-- the old ways?

Dan Akee:

No. The traditional way, you know, a lot of -- they tell the story about the more in traditional, but I never did care for to learn.

Carol Fleming:

No?

Dan Akee:

No.

Carol Fleming:

So what did -- as a young boy, what did you do? Like, how were you raised?

Dan Akee:

Most of the time I was raised, was herding sheep. Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

So when you went to school, was -- tell me about that experience; how did you feel about going to school?

Dan Akee:

Well, I -- I don't know. If I start going to school right away, might has different, but since I end up in the hospital, and that's mostly I stayed there for two years. But when I -- I know my English already within two years, so I didn't have no problem when I came -- came to the boarding school and, know, I talk English mostly.

Carol Fleming:

So did you -- were you able to help the other children?

Dan Akee:

No. No. I didn't -- I didn't -- I didn't even thinking about that, because they -- they are trained to learn English very well by the teachers. No, I -- only I know it -- I talk more in English.

Carol Fleming:

But when you spoke Navajo at school, were you punished?

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

What -- tell me about that? Were they -- was it --

Dan Akee:

Hmm?

Carol Fleming:

Tell me, did they punish you when you spoke Navajo?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. From the start, I don't know too much about it. Later on when I got to be very close to -- about 7th grade, know, we were forbidden about using the Navajo words. We were told we use English all the time.

Carol Fleming:

Did they punish you?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. They see you or in Navajo, they get -- they punish you.

Carol Fleming:

What did they do? What was the punishment?

Dan Akee:

They had a special, what they call, brown soap. Bitter. That's the -- sometime they put you in your mouth. Sometime they punish by some way that doing the work or something like that.

Carol Fleming:

And how did you leave school?

Dan Akee:

Well, when I was in -- only in 10th grade, that's when I volunteered into -- into -- into Marine Corps. Then they sent me with 4th Marine Division right straight from the United State into combat. That was in Marshall Island where Kwajalein _______. That was my first combat, I was in with the 4th Marine Division. After we -- we secure the island, know, they sent us back to Maui. That was our main camp there because there's no other place that they we can -- the division can stay. So they prepare a camp for us. So I -- we were fresh with words we got together. Then from there, the 4th Marine Division start, you know, attack Saipan. So I was with them at Saipan. So there -- after we secure that, then they -- we attack Tinian. That was my third invasion I was on there. So at Tinian, it's the place where they load atomic bomb. I went back over there about six years ago. They invite me because the 50 anniversary there. So -- so I went back over there, and was really different place when I seen the both island there. Then after that -- after we secure the island, I mean, that Tinian, know, they sent us back to Maui again. We train again. We get some more recruit, know. From there, we start going again. They -- they -- they want -- they want us right away, you know, until -- within four -- three days, then they give us a -- the war where we're going to land. What we going to do, know. Because it was -- they didn't want to tell us first that was all. So that's the time I went to Iwo Jima. So I was with them at the combat Iwo Jima. So it was -- the way I understand it, Iwo Jima is known as one of bloodiest battle they ever have in the history of Marine Corps. So I'm -- I'll tell you it's true, you know, because I seen this and more -- a soldier would have been killed there on the island there. So also there was four Navajo got killed there, code talker. And I saw there was some wounded there. But you know, I was -- I was getting tired of all the battle I went through. And of course, I was scared and if I going to make this this time or not. That's my -- in my mind, know. And somehow I got -- I got fear came up on me on the third night. We were -- something happened. I was -- I was shaking, I was sweating, because they were shelling us all night there. So by the time -- about 3:00 in the morning -- towards morning, that's when it happened. So I feel like running, where should I go? That's my -- in my mind, but somehow, I -- I don't know, I left there. You know, I went out of my mind until they got hold of me. Before I left that place where I was staying in, my foxhole, and I sat down. I said, God help me, I'm too young to die. That's what I said before I left. So they got ahold of me there, and they give me some kind of shot. It calmed me down and that's -- ever since then, know, I didn't have a problem. And something -- something happened to me, know, it was all in my mind, all the combat I went through. So after, they sent me back to Maui again, with a recruit. We start recruiting, because it was really not nice to hear they were -- all the men are lost, one of the highest casualty 4th Marine Division, since they anticipate more action than any other division. And that's the reason why we have the -- one of the highest casualty in the -- in the invasion there. So I'm the one of them that survived there. So as we were training again, and we were told that we going to hit someplace again. We -- they didn't never told us, so -- but until one morning, everybody was _______ around, and at 3, 4:00, and that's when I heard _______+ there and I heard the war is over, the war is over. So that's how the next morning, you know, they told us that war is over. So we start -- now, within few days since I have lot of point, all I did was certify I had 50 around there. But I have over 80 points. And so I had no problem, because all the combat I served in the war, I got there. So -- so I was one of the first one to -- I was told that I'm going -- going home. So that's how it happened, know, this -- but after that, know, when I got discharged, you know, I came back. And I do have a little problem. So I went back to school at Sherman Institute, that's close to Riverside in California. So I took -- under GI Bill, I went to school there and -- but yeah, close to school I start having nightmare. You know, every night, I was having nightmare comes up on me during the night dreaming about. So -- so what happened was that after the school, I -- know, I came back home here in Tuba City. And that's when I still having nightmares about the war. So, I think, one day in July, I -- I saw a -- a vision. I don't know what it was, a lady came up against me, with blank face. So that's when I faint, know. It was close to eating time, know, but -- so I was unconscious for some time. At that time, they don't really depend on a hospital, know, those years mostly were their own traditional way of prayer or sing. Then when I came back conscious, know, they -- they were having ceremony on me. Then they told me was the cause of the old nightmare. Since I went through with the Japanese in the Pacific, the fighting ______ there, that's the cause. That's when they call, they start talking about the only way that you can have a -- get care, is at a ceremony -- I mean, what they call a Squaw Dance. That's when I -- when they go to war, they -- they have this one. So that's what they did, know. But at the Squaw Dance, know, it was -- it didn't help me much. But I -- I was still, you know, sick. They perform a lot of ceremony on me, but I never got clear. So sometime I start thinking, what's the use? Nobody going to help me, hospital, anything like that, know. And the only way I kept myself was awake at night, know, some kind of drink. Know, beer or wine, to keep me awake. But then day, you sleep. By this time, know, I went to Flagstaff, know. I was not working, but I -- I start drifting there while I was _______. Know, _______+ money there, but, know, I was just begging for a quarter. From there I went to Phoenix. Then I see where I started over there again. Drink -- drink, I don't know, till I -- until -- until one day that I can't stand it. So I came back to Flagstaff and went to a doctor. When doctor -- doctor just told me that do you drink? And me, I say, yes. Then he told me that I had liver disease. That's what I was told. Then he told me that -- said you -- you have 50/50 chance to live. You had damage your liver already. So -- so if you quit, you might live. If you don't quit, I'm telling you the truth, you going to die from it. That's what I was told. So I told him, I thank you. So I start walking toward the door, that's when I got to the door, they -- he call me back. He told me, sit down. So that's the time that I find out that this doctor was a Christian man. He was a Christian man. So he started talking to me, do you ever go to these meeting? I said, what meeting? Church. That's when he start talking to me for about 45 minutes, know, that's your only hope, if your -- people can pray for you, and God can help you, all that. Know, he -- so I start thinking about it. I start thinking about, know, as he was talking to me, you know, I felt a whole lot better. And that's when I -- when I -- he got -- when he got through with me, I went back home where I was staying that I used to hide bottle. I took it all out and destroy it. I _______ all my cigarette. No more smoke -- more, ever since then it's 47 years ago, now. From there, I quit, and start going to church, you know. So that's how I end up. I never took -- I was never treated for that disease, because I think all people were praying for me, you know. So that's when I end up -- know. You know, so after I start going to church, know, I -- made me interested in God's word. So that's when I got interested to tell me people what I used to do, what happened to me. And that's how I end up as a minister. I became a minister. I was -- I used to run the church in Tuba -- Flagstaff. And over here, Assembly of God Church, and all that. And then I used to work for railroad in Santa Fe for 15 years. But I resigned from there, because I want to go to -- back to reservation.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

So I -- I got a job here right now with uranium. But afterwards it expire. I applied for it. This is where I -- where I connect and connect _______ +, but after I was laid off, you know, because the -- the El Paso Natural Gas, the government contract which expire. So they discharge me. The last one, I made layoff the last one. So -- so within three days, one of the men I know, came over to me, they need interpreter at Tuba City Hospital. So I went over there, applied for it. There was about seven other men there applied for that job, know, but since I got one of the highest scores because I know more about my medical term -- terminology in Navajo, because I learn a lot of it from the Bible. And that's how I got the job. Know, I -- from there I work 21 years with the _______ +. All together, I work four to five years, and with the military, I work 44. And that's how I end up, know, I after I retired, know, that's -- you know, I -- I -- I was in good health, and I was -- it's something that I -- I _______ + to do is, I talk to lot of people down at the hospital, what their problem -- home problem, alcohol problem, they used to send it to me in the off -- my office. I was interpreter. Then I used to interpret what doctors -- and, you know, and lot of them listen to me because I do have great experience with what I used to do.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

So that's how -- you know, know, today I -- I used to be Sunday school teacher, know, a long time. And I said well, right now, I just continue going to church, that's all. I know, _______ + more churches. Some young people said, we have a church over here, about three-mile there. That's -- I helped to -- to build that church, know. I helped them over here, Assembly of God Church, know, when I was -- and when I was a pastor _______ + they got that church up at Eastville here (ph). But I went down so much of the time because of being a Christian, we have -- they have one in Flag --

Carol Fleming:

Tell me about when you got married. You were married before -- the --

Dan Akee:

Yes. Yes. I -- that's when I was sick. They were having a Squaw Dance, that's when my wife came -- came by, you know. I met her there, because so happen that my father's aunt was married to his grandfather second wife. So I so happen to know my father's aunt, know, and so they came -- and they came out to help me, know, that's when she came with the -- providing sheep, know, for the -- for the ceremony. And that's where I got to know her. I know her for about, oh, a year, until I got _______ together and all. So that's when we got married. That's -- it's 1947. My wife's name used to be Bracker, now her name is Akee. Margaret Bracker. And so we have a big family.

Carol Fleming:

How -- how many children do you have?

Dan Akee:

We did have 12 children. There was six and six girls. But I lost two of them in car accident. The -- the other one had a blood disease, a -- a young lady. So -- so I lost three of them. So from that family, all those -- my -- my children, we have 73 grandkids. Out of that 73, we have 23 great -- great ones. So I do have a big family there.

Carol Fleming:

You do. Do they speak Navajo?

Dan Akee:

Only the -- my kids know the -- what I did was, since I have a -- a hard time learning English, know, when I -- when they start going to school, I told them to use words the English, and that's how they start English. By the time I notice that their -- their -- their mom was not -- never went to school, they need to talk Navajo. That's why I told them, no. So I had to -- you had to learn how to talk Navajo. Right now, all my grandkids, no, they -- they don't -- only few of them. But they know -- understand when you talking to them, you know, but they don't speak back with Navajo. And so I try to encourage them to speak their own language.

Carol Fleming:

Yes.

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

How did you -- how did you feel about the Marine Corps? Did you feel like you were treated well in the service?

Dan Akee:

To tell you the truth, know, I -- I was thinking that I was not being treated like that when I got to boot camp. And the way we've treated, know, we had the -- that -- that's the only way we can learn for obedient -- obedience, know, all that. Given order, you had to obey it, or -- it's hard, boot camp. They don't take it easy when you -- they made you exercise. All what they -- we could use in the Marine Corps. I found it was different, really different, know, they strict. But I seen the other white people, know, live in other city, they do have a hard time. But not Navajos, because we're, know, being on reservation, know, we mostly on foot, around everything I did, know. So we didn't have no problem with the exercise or any kind of, know, we -- know -- all -- already know what to do either with our rifle, know, because -- because the way we raised, that's it, know.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh. Did you -- did you feel there was any discrimination?

Dan Akee:

No, I don't think so. I don't think so.

Carol Fleming:

You didn't?

Dan Akee:

That's just -- just the way that we -- that they had to train the Marines. That's it.

Carol Fleming:

So --

Dan Akee:

No, they're not. Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

Just -- just the -- the strictness of the -- of the Marine Corps, and that you didn't find that these soldiers had any --

Dan Akee:

No, there's no such as discrimination about the Indian, know, they -- more they -- they are really know about us Indian, know, that's why after they got lot of respect by the officer when they're introduce us, know, and all that. They -- lot of Indians, know, also when we get known in our outfit, they were more the -- like brother -- brothers, know. That's the way I find out there in my combat service.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh. Do you remember any one particular combat experience that was -- was more important than another? Or any -- any story was memorable?

Dan Akee:

Yes. Yeah. I think all the important is you that have to -- since you -- a -- to use a communication. We have to learn how to operate the radios. How -- how to give a signal, how to line -- a telephone line, all that, know. It's a -- that's -- that's -- that's something that is very important, because we were assign with a special group. It's a conflict _______ was told. And that's the reason why every Navajos know a lot to anticipate, in order to learn more about what the combat -- and they'll take us -- they'll tell you, what I should do? And that's why most situation we -- we handle machine gun, rifle, grenade, all that, know. We're no different from the other people, that we have to use our own equipment, that's what we have to learn.

Carol Fleming:

And then also make the communications?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. That was our special -- special training we got, know, there's some -- there are some -- there are just with the infantry. Like some Navajo code talker, you probably heard about them with the radios.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

Radio is the one that fight behind our enemy line. There was about 18 of them. And they were under command of James Roosevelt and Carlson -- Carlson Evans, that was _______ so -- but they found out they were in the wrong position, that's why they got the Navajos back. That's in -- I help -- helping them in Guadalcanal.

Carol Fleming:

Oh really?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. And also there was some Navajo code talker with the paratrooper too. So see, we was just not anticipate when the -- with the radio but -- but the Marine want us to do what we have to do.

Carol Fleming:

Do you remember any special communication? And was Samuel Holiday your partner?

Dan Akee:

Well, he was my partner, but we're not together. See, there are some -- they represent one man in the headquarter division with where the -- are all the generals are. Then there's three regiment which they assign to -- to the regiment. Then there are some, a battalion, there are company. All the way down we're not together, because if the -- the platoon goes first, then the next one is the company, then battalion, then regiment. So it's all Navajos are attached to that. So in the front line, know, they -- he tell us, like, what happened, I was in the front line there at Saipan. It's in the book. Somehow somebody got that book in there. They do have a Japanese interpreter for us, that's how they intercepted they going to have a banzai attack. But I on Saipan, I think it was on second night, banzai attack so _______+ they -- they said it's kind of suicide themself, _______, you know, they just kind of were force. So I got this message, know, said I -- it says, that there would be a banzai attack in -- from division headquarter in Navajo code. So I receive there -- there will be a banzai attack, just hold your position there, don't move, know. Everybody, all the front line, they -- they get ready for the -- so that's what I sent a message to all -- all the division, the -- where the Navajos, they got the message, and they already knows the Japanese don't know what we said that we're ready. And I think that was really important things that we did, know. So about the time about 3:00 in the morning, that's when the flare start going up. And that's when we have attack. You see, I haven't a sent that message to all the company, all of the 4th Infantry Division, but the Japanese didn't know it. But we were ready. And that's how they -- lot of us life was saved, because if it was surprise attack, there will be a lot of our men would have been killed.

Carol Fleming:

Wow.

Dan Akee:

And that's how the -- as far as we -- we know what we did, it -- it saves lives, because nobody understand.

Carol Fleming:

Right. Were you ever mistaken for Japanese?

Dan Akee:

Somehow they happen to him because -- so happened that he have a -- pick a -- some clothes from the Japanese, you know, it's either shoes or -- I notice it. That he went -- we were back in the rest area, that's when it happen. And he wants to visit another person there, Navajo, that's why he got captured there, by his own man. So they brought him back to our outfit where the rest is camped. See, they were fighting the front line, on certain time, know, then they just sent us back, somebody will be replace us, continue the battle. And that's when they brought him back and he looked like -- more like Japanese (chuckling).

Carol Fleming:

Do you remember that? Were you -- you saw him?

Dan Akee:

Yeah, I -- I was there.

Carol Fleming:

What did you -- did you say, no, that's our guy?

Dan Akee:

Well, these two guard that brought him back, yeah, they -- somebody want identified. Say did anybody know him. All my outfit know him. And then everybody, they tease him. Oh, we don't know him, he's one of the Japanese, take him, take him. And _______ + said, no, no, no. It was -- (chuckling) -- finally, then that's our man. So -- I kept telling him all the time though, that the things that the -- you have to watch yourself now.

Carol Fleming:

Really?

Dan Akee:

That's the only place -- some other came very close, know.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh. Did you have any -- any times in battle where you were almost hit? Or were you wounded?

Dan Akee:

No. No. Lot of time came close, very close.

Carol Fleming:

Do you remember any of those times in particular?

Dan Akee:

Well, a lot of times, know, it's just normally we're very close to front line. Sometime we're even with the front line. Like, when we were landing, that's the worstest part you can get. Like, it happen -- so happen that on Si -- on Tinian, we landed -- we -- I was on the -- I think it's second invasion, the second -- second -- the first -- first bunch went in, and I was on the second one there. And they were shelling us right there. I notice that we can't move. Told us, stay. Then I heard one of my friend, he got shot. Then he point me, because I know him pretty well. He was holding his hand like this to me (indicating wave of right arm), but I can't make a target of myself. So -- so I stayed there. And pretty soon, his arm went down. I don't know what he was going to tell me, but it got into my mind though, I should have went over there. But that's how -- some of these things where, know, it's a very close call, I might say, because it so happen that we're told to go certain time to move, know, and we can't get back up. We just got continue going with the other troop -- the other, know, continue.

Carol Fleming:

So people were being killed around you?

Dan Akee:

Oh yes. Yes. That's right. Especially on the beach when you're landing. One of the worstest thing I ever seen was on Iwo Jima. I went into third wave, and I seen right on the beach, body laying with all the pack, it was just more like trash dump there. We just had to walk over, know, keep on moving. You know, it's a -- one of the worstest thing I ever seen, with all the -- and because one who's -- one who is the -- get you like this and make me think, know. But it was just got to continue along that, know.

Carol Fleming:

How do you feel about war?

Dan Akee:

Since I went through a lot of it, no. With all the invasion I went through, no, I don't like it. I don't even like the decision was made by Bush. To me, let the people over there fight for themself, like Vietnam happen. They know it. And some of the things that -- no. For just something that they're doing it, know, develop a -- some kind of poison gases, whole region, and they say, know, now what happen? They still fighting. And my -- two of my grandson was over there, one came back not very long ago. He was among there. And I -- watch my TV every day when the war was still going on. I say, oh -- hmm, I don't like it. I don't know -- Okay. Well, I think the -- the way I think about it, since I went all through this, know, I think, United State can defend their country. In the United State, somebody gets into our country, and we have a strong military that we can defend ourself, instead of moving over there. I think a -- a little money will take -- well, how much money they are using though? That could have been used for the American people, jobs here, school. I think it's just a waste of money to me. That's the way I feel about it. I don't like it. I think when there is a problem with the United State, us Indian, not only Navajo, but the American Indian are there to involve for defend their country. That's the way I believe now. There's lot of them from here, Navajos, that are serving in the Armed Force now, because they were -- it's their country. They want their peace, freedom. That's what they are fighting, but mostly they are all volunteer to me. They want to be in there. One of my nephew's daughter was in the Navy, she just came back last week. I talked to her the other night -- no, yesterday. It was just really about discharge, next month. So it's a lot of them are Nav -- Navajo or Indian lady in the United State _______ with the military service, know, because they say that it's our country, we're the American. And that's the way I feel about it now, but -- and I say that I don't like the war, know, but somehow that they -- they want to volunteer.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh. Tell me about your medals that you have on here.

Dan Akee:

Well, so happen the act of Congress, we receive one of the highest medal, Congressional Silver Medal. I have one, and which is something that they will never know, but it took a long time, know. When you get that kind of medal, know, you are knowing that you're more like you're -- well, there's people only one that receive is the -- one of the -- a hero, I might call it, for some special military in the war they do, they get the Congressional Medal of Honor. It's only to compare with that, know, I believe we have receive, what they call the military, I mean, Congressional Medal of Honor, know, special people can receive it. So with a -- at the occurrence they know when we did. We know right now that our language had made the history. Our language had made the history, because the code they develop -- it was not develop by any non-Navajo, was develop by our own 29 Navajos, which is really the -- really something that -- I think it's all something that they -- they start thinking about, or that I -- I just can't say what, but something that is just unbelievable, I might say, how they put the words in to be used, which even in Navajo, never had trained in, would never understand it. And with the foreign invasion, I went through -- I have -- in the Pacific Theater there for about -- and I have a Navy citation. I receive a President Unit Citation for the combat Saipan and the Iwo Jima, with a star in there. I have the three medal along with some other medal that I received this -- all that, know. I got some more, over there (indicating). And also this is medallion by the 4th Marine Division that was given to us in 1968. And that's it. So --

Carol Fleming:

And tell me about the necklace you have, that's beautiful.

Dan Akee:

Well, there's a story goes with it all our uniform. The red cap represent Marine Corps color. Then with the yellow (indicating shirt), there's a -- a corn pod, you know. When the corn stop, there's a pod that comes out there where you shuck, yellow color. They use it for prayer. So that represent that. And our pants, these are khaki pants color of the dirt. It represent the earth. And we have a shoes, black shoes, that some -- related to our prayer that ye shall walk with the _____ shoes where we -- you won't be defeated. That -- that -- that's -- that's the story it to it, know. And our jewelry represent a turquoise. It's a moonlight sky, and also it's -- it goes with the pearl. They had some small piece of shell -- seashell all that they use the prayer. This is special to us, know. And the silver, know, it's moonlight there. Belt _______+ been with the Navajos for a long time, know. So, it's a -- really it's a -- we represent our Navajo Nation right now. Everywhere we go, we represent our tribe, what we did. Sure, it's the language, I'm just like the instrument. But the -- what something that comes out in language is the one -- is the one that gave us a -- mean that we fight for our country. Right now, we're the first Indian to be among the Pentagon, among the heros. So we're first Indian to be among that at Pentagon. So we have a showcase over there at Washington, DC, where they visit every day. People visit there. We have there. And mostly, even that movie they made -- no, not the movie, but the -- the book that was written by Sally, it's all over the world now. I thank for her that, there's some story that people read about us, know. But I think individual Navajo code talker, one by one have a different way they suffer on the war. I too have suffered a quite a bit. Then I don't tell them what I went through. So there's a lot of things they don't know. They don't know. Well, there's a -- if somebody asks, I say, oh, who could tell, but the thing is, I -- I said individual --

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

-- have a different way of suffering in this war. We can't tell by right from the when we got into Marine Corps, all the way till we get discharge, there's a lot of things that we did, know. Some is saving another person's life. That's it.

Carol Fleming:

Well, I think you probably saved a lot of lives with what you did.

Dan Akee:

Well, it's knowing by now, here in the United State, that we save a lot of lives. Like, for example, there was a man by the name of Joe Kieyoomia, and he was a prisoner of war. He was not with the Marine Corps, but with the Army at -- at the Philippine around there. At the Bataan -- Bataan Death March, he was _______. But he was among those Death March, until they found there was a name, Joe Kieyoomia. Kieyoomia means in Japanese, was the light. So they know -- they notice and, they ask him, are you Japanese? No, I'm -- I'm Indian. American Indian, kept on saying. So they separate from him with the other people. Keeping. They -- well, you fighting against your own people, that's what they was his story. Until one day they kept him in prison, you know. Then one day they went over interpreter, his name was Japanese. His name was Kieyoomia, notice he heard us over the radio. And that's what they said, I bet that's one of the Indian that we heard over the radio, that voice. He didn't say Indian, but the voice. So -- so they took him over there to a big radio station, there he listen to. He said, I was really surprised to hear my own language -- my own language. The only thing is, it don't make sense to me what they using. The language they using is in code. That's what he said. And later on he was our special guest at Window Rock. And that's when he told us what happened. And he was thanking the Navajo code talker, thank you for us. That they could be Navajo because of your language. Then when a code talker said -- he said, that code was design -- design to save lives. That's what's his answer. So it's true, because he don't understand. He say, no, no. A person don't have a training, then he won't understand it.

Carol Fleming:

Is there anything you'd like to say in closing? Any kind of special thing that you remember that you'd like to say?

Dan Akee:

Well, the only thing I would say is about us American Indian, that when there's a problem we're among them because with our code, that we're the first to be American. So we called then ourself as American Indian, know. You see, the United State we are proud that we have freedom here in United -- America, United State, and that's one of the important things that the government should know us by now. Sure, we've been treated -- know, during the Long Walk, they were glad because they were told that we are troublemaker and they make our great-great-grandparents to walk all the full summer.

Carol Fleming:

Uh-huh.

Dan Akee:

Know. Right now, I don't feel the government realizes that we're morally a different people from the other tribe. That we did suffer. But now the population used to be around six -- or 50,000, during the 1942. Now, it's going over to 400,000 Indian, know, that's one of the biggest -- biggest reservation in the United State, which lot of Navajos, know, the only thing that I understand it that we have a treaty what's been signed by the government. The _______+ been broken. I wish they could remember and keep the treaty with --- to remember us by what they said about school, education, all that, know, to help the Indian, Nav -- us Navajo. That's the only thing sometime, know, they break their -- their treaty.

Carol Fleming:

(Looking at photograph) That was 1945 --

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

-- when the war was over?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. I was discharged was it was taken. You see with this one here (indicating photograph), in LA, Los Angeles. And this one (indicating photograph), I'm holding the Congressional Medal. This is a Congressional Silver Medal there (showing medal in box). That's a _______ it says Congressional Medal of Honor _______ and then Navajo code talker there. My -- my rank is Sergeant Major. It was promotion, by the -- by the Iwo Jima Committee when I was over there in -- in -- at Camp -- Camp Pendleton, Oceanside.

Carol Fleming:

So that was after the war?

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

So all through the war, you were what? Private?

Dan Akee:

No, Private First Class.

Carol Fleming:

Private First Class?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. That was in 1946 (indicating photograph), I went back to school down there, California, and I was living at the school. That's when it was taken.

Carol Fleming:

How many years have you been married?

Dan Akee:

57. Since 57 years.

Carol Fleming:

Oh, and this is the GI Joe (indicating doll held by woman). And this is -- this is Dan's daughter.

Barbara:

Barbara.

Carol Fleming:

Barbara.

Dan Akee:

Well, this is for from Albuquerque to Chicago (indicating photograph). We were going to Chicago for a 4th Marine Division Association. 4th Marine Division the -- I think it was -- I don't know how many years they been getting together. So they invite us over the first time. First time, that's when they -- after that meeting, they release that confidential about a code there. This was taken there.

Carol Fleming:

So this was before -- before it was declassified?

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

And this is --

Dan Akee:

That's me, right here (indicating photograph). That time we don't have no uniform. The Marine Corps provide us a -- a plane down towards that trip.

Carol Fleming:

How old were you there (indicating photograph)?

Dan Akee:

I think I was around 16, before I went to service.

Carol Fleming:

Where was this taken?

Dan Akee:

I don't remember.

Carol Fleming:

Good looking boy.

Dan Akee:

(Chuckles) Huh?

Carol Fleming:

Good looking boy.

Dan Akee:

Oh, yeah.

Carol Fleming:

There was a picture of your wife when she was a young girl.

Dan Akee:

That's when --

Carol Fleming:

That's her (indicating photograph)?

Dan Akee:

-- the other one there.

Carol Fleming:

So this is picture of you --

Dan Akee:

When I was still in Marine Corps (indicating photograph).

Carol Fleming:

Oh, that's (indicating photograph) --

Dan Akee:

That's my wife.

Carol Fleming:

That's wonderful.

Dan Akee:

Yeah.

Carol Fleming:

She was how old there?

Dan Akee:

She was only 17 when I got married to her.

Carol Fleming:

Let's come over in the light. Let me see. She was 17?

Dan Akee:

Yeah. She was only 16 when I was -- I met her.

Carol Fleming:

(Book signed) Thank you very much.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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