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"I was studying on my own at night, and by golly I passed the test - I passed the test and got my stripe." (Video interview, 29:21)

   Joe Hosteen Kellwood
Collection image
Joe Kellwood [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Service Location: Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Island); Pacific Theater
Rank: Private First Class
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Joe Hosteen Kellwood was born in 1921 in Steamboat Canyon, Arizona, within the Navajo reservation. Kellwood was among the second group of Marines to be trained as Navajo Code Talkers, and he remembers the training as being intense and demanding. He and the 1st Marine Division attacked Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain in December 1943, where he endured the loss of two fellow Code Talkers, as well as malaria and the terror of nighttime Japanese bombing raids. After Cape Gloucester, Kellwood took part in the invasion of Peleliu in September 1944, and Okinawa from April through July 1945. After the war, he attended college using the GI Bill before embarking on a career in the construction field as a carpenter and tradesman. He later became heavily involved with the Navajo Code Talkers Association, with whom he became renowned for his rendition of the Marines Hymn in the Navajo language.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (14 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (89 min.)
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (14 items)
Discusses the use of English and Navajo names; family background and the deaths of his parents while he was still in school; uncertainty surrounding his birthdate in 1921 in Steamboat Canyon, Arizona. (05:12) Going to boarding school at Fort Apache Indian Reservation at the age of ten, learning Apache language and culture; getting spanked at school for speaking in Navajo or Apache; attending Keams Canyon Boarding School in the Hopi Reservation after the Fort Apache boarding school was closed; positive memories from school days; learning carpentry skills at school; attending Fort Wingate Vocational High School; hardship he faced after his father died. (07:31) Deciding to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1942, after being inspired by news from Guadalcanal; enlisting in Albuquerque, New Mexico; seeing other Navajos that he knew on the train to boot camp in San Diego; stopping in Phoenix for physical examination. (07:09)
Reporting to boot camp in San Diego; completing boot camp and immediately reporting to Navajo Communication School at Camp Elliott as one of the second group of Code Talkers to be trained; memories of going through the demanding training with John Kinsel; deployment of the original 29 Code Talkers with the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions to Guadalcanal; tips from some of the original 29 Code Talkers on how to memorize Code terminology; how additions were made to the Code over time; working with his cousin Joe Gatewood, who was also a Code Talker. (13:25) Shipping out from California in March 1943 on the USS Mount Vernon (AP-22); joining up with 1st Marine Division in Australia, together with fellow Code Talkers Dennis Cattlechaser and Andrew Calleditto; interacting with Australians. (04:49) Joining up with Headquarters Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division and learning from the division’s combat veterans; importance of managing anxiety and fear in combat; getting injured in a fight in Australia; training and preparing for combat in Australia and in Milne Bay, New Guinea. (07:27)
Describes his experiences at the Battle of Cape Gloucester; the terror of nighttime Japanese bombing raids - also known as “Washing Machine Charlie”; remembers two Code Talkers being killed at Cape Gloucester; Kellwood’s daily duty as a runner. (07:15) Training as a unit and incorporating replacements after Cape Gloucester; refitting and training on Pavuvu; describes his experiences at the Battle of Peleliu; remembers formation of American bombers flying over to attack Rabaul; Australian pen pal Nancy Booker who contacted his family on the reservation for him; impact of seeing dead and wounded Marines on the beach at Peleliu; intense heat on Peleliu that led to heat exhaustion and dehydration for many Marines. (08:58) Returning to Pavuvu for refitting and more training after Peleliu; seeing some of the original Code Talker instructors on Pavuvu; Marines who were veterans of three campaigns were being sent home. (01:48)
Experiences during the Battle of Okinawa; seeing Ernie Pyle on the ship going to Okinawa; landing on Okinawa near Kadena airfield on April 1, 1945; sadness upon hearing of the death of President Roosevelt; fellow Code Talker William Cadman making mutton stew in a helmet; returning home to the U.S. from Okinawa in late October 1945. (06:07) Returning home after the war; attending Arizona State University using the GI Bill; learning the carpentry trade and working as a carpenter in the construction field. (01:23) Recalls the story of a near miss he survived on Okinawa from shrapnel landing next to him; suffering from malaria on New Britain. (02:31)
Describes how Jimmie King translated the Marines Hymn into Navajo; sings the first verse of the Marines Hymn in Navajo. (02:37) Shows photographs of himself and his family from throughout his life, as well as photographs of other Code Talkers. (06:00) 

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  October 26, 2011
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