About Albert Smith, Navajo Code Talker
Smith, Albert Navajo Code Talker (2nd Group) Alive
Location Birthdate Decorations Congressional Silver Medal of Honor
Smith was a Navajo Code Talker recruited by the Marine Corps in 1942.
Few people outside the Navajo Reservation had even heard the language, and the Japanese never broke the code, which used Navajo words to represent letters or words in English. For example, the Navajo word for hummingbird — pronounced Da-he-tih-hi — referred to a fighter plane. The code word for America translated to "our mother," or Ne-he-mah.
During the Battle of Iwo Jima alone, the code talkers transmitted more than 800 error-free messages in 48 hours.
Their accomplishments have been largely absent from history books because the code was classified until 1968.
Even today, Smith doesn't talk much about his wartime experiences. Tales of battle and destruction are not part of the Navajos' oral tradition, he said.
"The elders asked us not to talk about our war stories."
Smith makes a cameo appearance in the movie, Windtalker - he appears in the movie at a bus station while Beach is leaving to join the Marines. In real life, Smith delivered coded messages about troop movements and supplies on the Marshall and Mariana islands. Smith said that even though the movie fictionalizes some of the code talkers' story, he's still glad to see it being shared at last.
"It's a good story on the basis of the code," he said.
In the movie, the bodyguards are given orders to protect the code at all costs, including killing code talkers if the Japanese tried to capture them. Smith, however, said he never had a bodyguard and knew few other code talkers who did.