Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker

Samuel Holiday and Robert S. McPherson. Univ. of Oklahoma, $19.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8061-4389-7
Days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Philip Johnston, a former Marine sergeant raised on a Navajo reservation, suggested the development of a communications code using Navajo language and tribe members as “code talkers.” Soon, the Marines had recruited the “Twenty-Nine,” the first group to develop and use this code. Holiday was a member of this group, and his children enlisted historian McPherson (A Navajo Legacy) to assemble this oral history of Holiday’s life and his work as a code talker. A cracking good storyteller, Holiday regales us with tales of his childhood tending sheep in Monument Valley, Utah; his challenging years in boarding school; and his enlistment in the Marines. He follows with his harrowing experiences across South Pacific combat arenas, his difficult return to his community, and his marriage to a woman named Lupita. Holiday frames his journey with elements from the Navajo creation story, in which a young warrior is protected by the eagle, and McPherson sandwiches Holiday’s accounts between an excerpt from that story and a commentary that provides context for Holiday’s words. Although in 1982 President Reagan declared August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day, the group of men brought to life by Holiday’s stories has been mostly forgotten. 30 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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