One of last Navajo Code Talkers dies
Samuel Tom Holiday, one of the last surviving World War II Navajo Code Talkers, passed away on June 11, 2018 at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins, UT. He was surrounded by family and friends.
Holiday was born in 1924 near Oljato, in San Juan County. As a young soldier in the United States Marine Corps, he was assigned to join the top-secret Code Talker unit, graduating from Navajo Communications School at Camp Pendleton, CA in 1943. He is one of 400 Navajo Code Talkers, whose use of the Navajo language in radio broadcasts on the battlefield was never deciphered by the Japanese.
The US Marine Corps has stated that the work of the Code Talkers was critical to the success of the American war effort, including the invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945.
The US military did not even acknowledge the existence of the Code Talker program until more than 20 years after the war ended, in 1968.
In 1982, US President Ronald Reagan publicly acknowledged the efforts of the Code Talkers. It was not until that time that Holiday began to tell his remarkable story to his family and friends.
In 2013, Holiday teamed with Robert McPherson, a historian at the Utah State University – Eastern campus in Blanding, to publish Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday Code Talker.
Dr. McPherson explained what an honor it was for him to help share this remarkable story. The book traces Holiday’s childhood and adolescent years in San Juan County before he embarked on an adventure of a lifetime as a member of the Marine Corps in World War II.
The book shares Holiday’s experiences through the lens of his cultural background. The San Juan County native witnessed these events through eyes which were heavily influenced by Navajo culture and religious traditions.
The traditional battles between good and evil, including the Twins, Spider Woman, and Water Monster, were played out in contemporary battles on the beaches of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.
Funeral services were held on June 16 in Kayenta, AZ. Afterwards, Holiday was laid to rest next to his late wife.