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Navajo code talkers saved thousands

From left, Jack Glaze of Ohio, George Kirk of Arizona, and Don Pilcher, now of Bellingham, served with the 3rd Signal Company, 3rd Marine Division, during World War II. During combat in Iwo Jima, Pilcher carried messages between battalion officers and Navajo code talkers. Kirk was one of about a dozen code talkers in their platoon.
From left, Jack Glaze of Ohio, George Kirk of Arizona, and Don Pilcher, now of Bellingham, served with the 3rd Signal Company, 3rd Marine Division, during World War II. During combat in Iwo Jima, Pilcher carried messages between battalion officers and Navajo code talkers. Kirk was one of about a dozen code talkers in their platoon. FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

This photograph was taken on Guam just after the surrender of the Japanese. We had returned from Iwo Jima in March and April of 1945 and were preparing for the invasion of Japan along with the other five Marine divisions and Army units.

The photo shows, from left, Jack Glaze of Ohio, George Kirk of Arizona and Don Pilcher of Kansas. We were in the 3rd Signal Company of the 3rd Marine Division.

Jack Glaze and I joined the Signal Company in September 1944, but George Kirk was a battle veteran and had been in the Pacific for the invasions of Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Guam.

He was one of about a dozen Navajo code talkers in our platoon. A close friend of mine, he died several years ago.

The code talkers enabled the six Marine divisions to have secure communications for the invasions in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal through the last major battle on Okinawa. The code talkers developed a code using Navajo words, but encrypted in such a way that Navajo speakers untrained in the use of the code could not understand what was being transmitted by telephone or radio.

The use of this code was instrumental in saving thousands of casualties. There were code talkers in all of the regiments and battalions, which made it possible to have complete security of communication throughout the division.

In combat on Iwo Jima, I was a message-center runner, carrying messages to and from the headquarters' battalion officers and the code talkers.

I was drafted in April of my high school senior year and completed boot camp in San Diego and infantry training at Camp Pendleton before joining the 3rd Marine Division on Guam.

After the war I was sent to China and served in the 3rd Amphibious Corps and the 1st Marine Division, assisting in the return of Japanese soldiers to Japan. The east coast of China had been occupied by Japan for many years.

After two years overseas, I returned home to serve out the rest of my service time in San Francisco. My wife and I moved to Bellingham in 2005 after living for extensive periods in San Diego, Washington, D.C., Maine, and Australia.



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