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"The medicine man told us 'when you get back, we’ll wash this off of you--if you come back.'" (Video interview, 16:02)

   George Smith
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George Smith [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 4th Marine Division
Service Location: Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands); Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands); Guam (Mariana Islands); Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Hawaii; Pacific Theater
Rank: Corporal
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George Smith, from Gallup, New Mexico, enlisted in the Marine Corps together with his younger brother Albert (AFC/2001/001/60091) in early 1943. Before he left home, Smith’s family arranged for a traditional Navajo protection ceremony to be performed for him and his brother, a ceremony which Smith credits with keeping him safe from harm. After completing training, Smith was assigned to the 10th Marine Regiment - the artillery regiment for the 2nd Marine Division. Smith’s first experience of combat came during the Battle of Saipan, from where he maintained painful recollections of seeing dead Marines on the beach when he landed, and coming under heavy Japanese artillery fire while working as a wireman in the 10th Marines gun positions. Smith also held happier memories from his time on Saipan - after the island was secured he was able to see both his older brother Ray, who was there with the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, and his younger brother Albert, who was there as a Code Talker assigned to the 4th Marine Division.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (89 min.)
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»Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Veterans
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Being recruited by older Code Talkers when he was a student at Fort Wingate High School; enlisting with his brother Albert and lying about their ages. (04:41) Completing boot camp and Code Talker training in the summer of 1943; being warned not to talk about their training with outsiders; being warned that some of the other service members did not like Native Americans. (02:38) Being assigned to 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and training with the unit in Hawaii; seeing the wounded coming back from Tarawa; having a traditional protection ceremony performed for him before he left home; being questioned by an Anglo Marine who did not understand how Native Americans could serve in the military. (12:20)
Practice invasion of Maui, where he and the other Code Talkers with the 10th Marines worked out how they would operate in combat. (01:11) Memories of the Battle of Saipan - landed with the third wave, worked as a wireman in 10th Marines’ gun positions, which frequently came under Japanese artillery fire. (04:55) Seeing his older brother Ray, who was in the Army, and his younger brother Albert, a Code Talker with the 4th Marine Division, while he was on Saipan. (04:40)
Experiences during the Battle of Tinian; another Marine shooting pigs that he mistook for Japanese soldiers in bushes at night. (04:37) His partner Code Talker in 10th Marines was Charlie Sosie Begay, who died soon after the war; memories of his parents and grandparents, who taught him about Navajo history but did not think he was mature enough to know the whole story yet; mother died when he was young, stepmother was cruel; starting to work when he was 14 with his older brother. (12:43) Memories of learning English as a child; boarding school was preferable to his home life; grandfather was a mechanic and got him interested in working on automobiles; VJ Day and being stationed in Japan after the war; becoming an automobile mechanic after leaving the military. (10:55)

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  October 26, 2011
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