Meet Keith Little
Keith Little served as a Navajo Code Talker with the US Marine Corps from December of 1943 until after the war. He fought in numerous engagements of WWII, including battles in the Marshall Islands, Sai Pan, and Iwo Jima. Like most of the Navajo Code Talkers, he wasn't aware of the significance of his contribution to the war effort until much later in life. It was only then that he understood the importance of documenting their story for posterity. In conversation about his hopes for the new museum, he speaks with certitude of his desire to teach the younger generations of the importance of striving for excellence and of serving above and beyond the call of duty. Promoting a greater understanding of the Navajo culture, traditions and way of life is a cause he also holds dear. When asked why he chose to go to war, he answers simply: "[because] the Japanese made a sneak attack on the US," adding that he wanted "to protect our people, land and country."
Meet Samuel Tso
When Navajo Code Talker Samuel Tso saw the tiny island of Iwo Jima for the first time, he thought US forces would be able to take it in one day. Even as they landed, the beaches were dead quiet. Only after they had made their way up the beach did the heavily entrenched Japanese open fire. It was not long before the young Marine reconsidered his first assessment. It would take more than a month of brutal combat before the island was secured. Samuel Tso bravely served with the US Marine Corps from February 13th, 1943 to March 29th, 1946. Even now, some 65 years later, he recalls with clarity the experience of crouching in bomb craters for cover, unable to ascertain the direction of fire until comrades on the opposite side of the crater were killed. Hearing his experiences, it becomes quite clear why the Navajo Code Talkers Museum & Veterans' Project is so meaningful to him. It will be a place where the Code Talkers can tell their own harrowing stories and help promote the cause of peace.
Meet Teddy Draper Sr.
Teddy Draper Sr. joined the Marines on November 3rd, 1943, and was soon after sent overseas as a Navajo Code Talker serving in many harrowing campaigns. In the assault on Iwo Jima, he was wounded in the face and leg by mortar fire but continued to fight on with his comrades. He landed with the 28th Marines on Green Beach and, at one point, bravely ran through heavy enemy fire and back again to retrieve lost equipment needed to open lines of communication. It was a distinguished act for which he was promoted. Sadly, he lost many friends during this bloody struggle. Teddy Draper Sr. later went on to serve in occupied Japan, where he became proficient in his third language, which he still remembers today. He was discharged May 16th, 1946.
Meet Bill Toledo
Bill Toledo was a Navajo Code Talker for three years from October 1942 to October 1945. He served in many engagements including the Battle of Bougainville in the British Solomon Islands, and the battles for Guam and Iwo Jima. On the island of Guam, while filling in as a messenger, he narrowly escaped sniper bullets by means of some quick footwork. Impressed by his moves, some of the Marines jokingly asked about his football career before the war. Not all Marines were so jovial, though. On one occasion, while marching through the jungle, he was mistaken for a Japanese soldier and taken prisoner. After being marched back to headquarters at gunpoint, he was assigned a bodyguard to avoid future misunderstandings. Although the danger is gone, he still gets calls to this day making sure he's okay. Bill Toledo feels it is important to share experiences like his with new generations so that they may understand the cost of freedom and the sacrifices which were made on their behalf.