Dr. Samuel Billison: Young Marine, Fellow Navajo Code Talkers
Create A Code Unfathomable To Enemy
Dr. Samuel Billison, an educator and administrator for over 40 years, might
seem an unlikely inspiration for a G.I. Joe doll. But one of the most recent
plastic action figures is not only modeled after him, it contains his voice.
Billison, who recorded the lines for "Navajo Code Talker G.I. Joe," was one of
the original 29 Navajos recruited to construct what is perhaps the only
unbroken military code in history.
Billison, who served with the 5th Marine Division, was also one of the six
Navajo code talkers whose lightning-fast transmissions of over 800 error-free
messages at Iwo Jima led Maj. Howard Connor, 5th Marines signal officer, to
declare, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo
Jima." The entire operation there was directed through orders communicated
by the code talkers.
The Navajo code talkers did not, however, merely speak to one another.
Their far more valuable contribution was to fashion a new "dialect" of their
language. With its complex syntax and intonation, Navajo has no alphabet or
symbols. At the start of World War II, only about 30 non-Navajo people could
speak the language. It was a self-contained communication system.
Samuel Billison is president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, which
has received much attention in the wake of recent books and documentaries.
Two movies are in the works. One, by Red Horse Productions, has the
approval of the Navajo Council. The other, "Windtalker, " by director John
Woo, does not. Billison has written to the actor slated to play a code talker's
bodyguard to ask him "to reconsider, for the dignity of the Navajo .. Native
American language is very powerful and very sacred."
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan paid tribute to the contributions of
Billison and his fellow code talkers by declaring Aug. 14 to be Navajo Code
Bethanne Kelly Patrick
Navajo Code Talkers