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Living by the Code

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Related Links/Info
  • NSA: Code Talkers Exhibit
    (National Security Agency page with link to more extensive information via Acrobat document)

  • MGM "Windtalkers" Movie site
    (Recent Hollywood retelling of the story of the Code Talkers. Site includes an interactive Code Talker translator.)

  • Senator Jeff Bingman's Tribute
    (Extensive photos, stories and more about the Navajo Code Talkers)

    Exhibition Information

    Private Reception:
    October 16, 6-7 p.m. ³Members Only². Meet photographer Kenji Kawano.

    Public Reception:
    October 16, 7 p.m. Free and open to the public. Meet photographer Kenji Kawano.

    Brown Bag Lunch:
    October 17, 11:45 a.m. Bring lunch then Gallery Talk with Kenji Kawano.

    The Kennedy Museum of Art is located in historic Lin Hall at The Ridges on the Ohio University campus. The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 12 to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 12 to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. For information or to book tours call (740) 593-1304. For more information please visit the website.


  • October 16, 2002
    Exhibition Honors World War II Navajo Code Talkers
    By Karen Wyman

    Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers will be on view at the Kennedy Museum of Art beginning Sept. 3. This compelling exhibition features portraits of Navajo Code Talkers by photographer Kenji Kawano. Included are 40 black and white photographs with additional text by the artist, highlighting the Navajo U.S. Marines that defied Japanese intelligence during World War II with their unique and undecipherable code based on the Navajo language.

    Kawano, a native of Japan, was not yet born when a group of Navajo servicemen known as the Code Talkers used their native Navajo tongue to create a secret dialogue that was never able to be broken by the enemy. Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers provides a glimpse into the experiences of some of these men more than a half a century later, helping to bring long-awaited attention and respect to the important role they played in the war effort.

    Kawano came to the United States in 1973 and was drawn to the mystery and beauty of the Navajo Reservation. He soon met Carl Gorman, one of the patriarchs of the Navajo Code Talkers Association. Kawano gained acceptance by the code talkers and became their official photographer, as well as an honorary member of the Association. The exhibition, Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers was developed to educate the public about the valiant role the code talkers played and to symbolize a healing of the wounds of war.Kenji Kawano

    The Navajo language was virtually unknown off the reservation. Historically, the language had no written form and was spoken by very few non-Navajos. The concept of utilizing the Navajo language as a military code was the brain-child of civilian Phillip Johnston. Raised on the Navajo Reservation by missionary parents, Johnston spoke fluent Navajo and had served as a translator for President Theodore Roosevelt.

    With the approval of the Navajo Tribal Council, the Marine Corps began recruiting young Navajo men at Window Rock, Ariz., in May 1942. The recruits went through basic training and attended the Field Signal Battalion Training Center at Camp Pendleton. Their training included the development of a special Navajo vocabulary. Following their training the recruits were sent to the Pacific. By the end of the war, more than 400 Navajo Code Talkers had been assigned to all the Marine divisions in the Asian-Pacific theater. They took part in every Marine assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945. Maj. Howard M. Connor, U.S. Marines, has stated that, ³Were it not for the Navajo, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.²

    The Code Talkers were not nationally recognized until 1969, with a medallion specially minted in commemoration for their service. It was not until July 2001, 56 years after World War II ended that the first group of Navajo Code Talkers (the original 29), who were chosen and developed the code, were given the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor in Washington, D.C., by President Bill Clinton. Of the original 29, only five were alive and four were able to attend. In November 2001, the other approximately 400 Navajo Code Talkers were given the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor at Window Rock. Again, only a small number were still living and fewer were able to attend the ceremony.

    The exhibition Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers is organized and circulated by the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, NM. The exhibition will be on view at the Kennedy Museum through Nov. 24. The companion publication, Warriors: Navajo Code Talkers is available for purchase.

    A series of events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. A private museum-members reception and book signing, featuring an appearance by photographer Kawano, will be held at the Kennedy Museum on Oct. 16 from 6-7 p.m., followed by a free public reception at 7 p.m. Call (740) 593-1304 for membership information. A ³brown bag lunch² and gallery talk by the artist will be held at the Museum on Oct. 17 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Kenji Kawano¹s visit is co-sponsored by the Kennedy Visitor Series.


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