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"Then my elders gave me one suggestion, they said 'leave your war stories behind, leave it where it happened.'" (Video interview, Part 2, 28:48)

   Albert Smith
Collection image
Albert Smith [2007]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 4th Marine Division
Service Location: Marshall Islands; Saipan, Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands); Iwo Jima; Pacific Theater
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Albert Smith, from Gallup, New Mexico, enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was fifteen years of age and an eighth grader in boarding school in Fort Wingate. He was determined to join at the same time as his older brother, George Smith (AFC/2001/001/54880). With the 4th Marine Division, Smith took part in the battles of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. In his oral history interview Smith demonstrates his skill as a teacher (a job he held for many years), providing a comprehensive overall history of the war in the Pacific, as well as explaining how the Navajo Code was devised and used in practice. But he also provides some more personal reflections - Smith was sensitive to racial tensions that existed in the military and in American society at the time, and also jokes about the stress of preparing for nighttime banzai attacks on Saipan while constant rain made weapons maintenance almost impossible. He also provides vivid memories from his time on the island of Roi during the Battle of Kwajalein, where Smith and his colleagues had to fight a determined enemy who tied themselves into treetop fighting perches, and hid in drainage ditches after the island was secured so that they could attack American sentries at night.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (11 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (116 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (11 items)
Learning about the military while he was in high school; joining the Marine Corps in April 1943 together with his brother George; falsifying his age in order to enlist. (06:34) Completing boot camp as part of an all-Navajo platoon; going through Code Talker training; describes how the Code was composed and used; security measures in place to protect Code and protect the Code Talkers; breach in secrecy that led to article about Code Talkers being published in a magazine during the war. (12:25) Being assigned to the 4th Marine Division after completing Navajo Communication School; racial tensions in the military during the war. (04:14)
Preparing for banzai attack on Saipan; spending months preparing for landings; witnessing people break under the psychological strain of combat; how Code Talkers were expected to be generalists and pitch in where needed. (07:00) Fighting on the island of Roi during the Battle of Kwajalein; seeing a bunker full of Japanese soldiers who had been killed by concussion from exploding shell or bomb; Japanese tactics during the Battle of Kwajalein. (06:35) Going back to finish high school diploma after the war; being unable to find a job or a college so enlisting in the Army; training for the Quartermaster Corps in Camp Lee, Virginia, where he encountered a segregated community for the first time. (06:07)
Preparing on Maui for invasion of mainland Japan when war ended; celebrations at the end of the war. (01:18) Working as a consultant for MGM on the movie Windtalkers; helping actor Adam Beach speak in Navajo Code; playing practical joke on director John Woo. (08:06) How Code Talkers were distributed and employed within a division; situations in which the Navajo Code was employed to communicate. (04:05)
Story of Joe Kieyoomia, a Navajo Army soldier who was captured by the Japanese and tortured to translate the Code, but couldn’t decipher it. (02:04) First public recognition for the Code Talkers came at the 1968 4th Marine Division Reunion; telling his family for the first time that he was a Code Talker. (03:37) 
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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