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Code Talkers at MCAS during training exercise
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Two members of the legendary Navajo Code Talkers were at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on Monday to share their history with Marines taking part in Exercise Javelin Thrust, which is known as the Marine Corps' largest reserve training exercise.
Bill Toledo and Sidney Bedoni, who was one of the youngest Navajos ever to join, served in the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater of World War II. They each spoke about the important role they, and the other young men from the Navajo reservations in Arizona who would come later, would play in the history of WWII and this country, for using their native language to turn the course of the war.
Bedoni and Toledo spent Monday taking part in various activities around the air station, including being interviewed by the air station's combat camera unit as part of a program to record the Code Talkers' oral history.
The highlight of the day came as they visited one of the training sites, where they spoke with some young Marines who were training as communication operators. Capt. Christian Palmer said after telling one of his war stories, Toledo, from memory, re-enacted a radio call he made during World War II calling in an artillery barrage using the Navajo code while visiting a training site.
"Today for the first time in about 60 years, the Navajo code was passed over a Marine Corps radio network," said Palmer
Code Talkers served duty in some of the war's bloodiest battles and are credited with being instrumental in every U.S. Marine victory in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. With Navajo-speaking Marines on both ends of communications during battle, commanders could order air support, battlefield maneuvers, and artillery and naval bombardments instantaneously, without wasting time deciphering encrypted codes. To this day it remains the only unbreakable code in the history of warfare.
The day's activities for Toledo and Bedoni ended at the air station's chapel, where they told their stories of the war.
Toledo joined the Marine Corps shortly after the first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were recruited to develop the code in 1942. He explained that during the early months of the war, Japanese intelligence had broken every code the U.S. had devised, and a new code was urgently needed. Toledo saw action during the battle of Guam and Iwo Jima and the Bougainville invasion force in November 1943.
The now 89-year-old Bedoni, in a prepared statement read by his son Darrell, served in Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Because of its top-secret nature, the code had to be memorized by each of the Code Talkers so there was no risk of a handbook falling into enemy hands. The code, which was used throughout the Korean War, remained top secret until 1968 in case their code would be needed in other wars.
“For years his wife, my mom, did not know what he did during WWII,” Darrell Bedoni said.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.