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"We finally wrote a petition… over 6,000 names went into the Senator’s office - that’s how we got the Medal." (Video interview, 37:56)

   Samuel W. Billison
Collection image
Samuel Billison at time of interview
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: Headquarters Battalion, 5th Marine Division
Service Location: Camp Pendleton, California; Iwo Jima; Pacific Theater; Japan
Rank: Corporal
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Samuel Billison was born in a hogan on the Navajo reservation near Ganado, Arizona in 1925. After joining the Marines, he was initially unenthusiastic about becoming a Code Talker, but became intrigued by the Code after learning some of its intricacies. In February and March of 1945, Billison participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 5th Marine Division. After the war, he became an educator, earning a PhD in education, and working as a teacher, principal, and administrator. Serving on the Kinlichee school board and Navajo Area School Board Association, he was acclaimed for his efforts in reorganizing the education system on the Navajo reservation. Billison played a key role in ensuring that the Code Talkers' legacy would live on. He joined the Navajo Code Talkers Association in the late 1970s; as the organization's president for many years, he helped organize the efforts to get the Congressional Gold and Silver Medals approved for the Code Talkers.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (47 min.)
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Earning a doctorate in education; being delivered as a baby in his parents’ home with no birth certificate; his family, including a brother who served in the Army in Europe. His mother’s work as a weaver for the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon. (04:09) Attending boarding school at St. Michael Indian School through 8th grade, then Albuquerque Indian School for high school. (05:57) Discharge from the Marines; using the GI Bill to earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate from University of Oklahoma; being in the hospital for a year due to a service-connected illness. (04:44)
Working as a high school principal, teacher, and coach; finishing one semester of law school. (02:33) Going to work for the Navajo Nation, becoming Director of Community Services; being elected to Tribal Council; work on the Council’s Education Committee obtaining federal funding for math and science programs. (05:03) Running unsuccessfully for Chairman of the Navajo Tribe; serving on the Council as chairman of the Community Development Committee and later Education Committee. (01:16)
Working for the governor of Arizona to manage federal programs for Native American nations in Arizona; earning doctorate in education from University of Arizona; friendship with Barry Goldwater; births of his sons. (02:19) Helping to establish the Navajo Academy, a college preparatory school. (04:03) Joining the Navajo Code Talkers Association, and later serving as president of the Association. Navajo Code Talkers Association’s public engagement activities and charitable work. (04:51)
Process of getting the Congressional Gold Medal and Congressional Silver Medal approved for the Code Talkers. (02:24)  
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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