One of last surviving Navajo code talkers to celebrate 93rd birthday at Georgefest

Navajo code talker Samuel T. Holiday, St. George, Utah, May 31, 2014 | Photo by Samantha Tommer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man who used his complex native language to help win World War II in the Pacific theater will celebrate his 93rd birthday with the community Friday. (see Ed. Note)

In this 2015 file photo, Navajo Code Talker Samuel Tom Holiday participates in the ’35th Annual Paiute Restoration Gathering’ at the Paiute Tribal Center, Cedar City, Utah, June 13, 2015 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

Samuel Tom Holiday will appear in full uniform for a surprise celebration in a booth at the monthly Georgefest in downtown St. George surrounded by the many medals and awards he has earned. The community is invited to come meet him from 5-7 p.m. and help sing “Happy Birthday” at 6 p.m. when he will be presented with a cake.

Holiday was one of about 400 Navajo Native Americans to serve with the U.S. Marines as code talkers. As fluent speakers of Navajo and English, they were instrumental in communicating messages between troops in a language indecipherable by Japanese combatants.

“We want to bring him out to the community to let people know who they were,” Tya Redhouse, Holiday’s granddaughter, said.

Holiday was just 19 when he joined the Marines and was recruited for his special assignment to help fight in the Pacific theater in 1943. Most of the code talkers have died as old age has caught up with them.

“There are only about 10 of them that are still with us,” Redhouse said.

Read more: Navajo code talker Samuel Holiday, 90, gets surprise honors

This 2014 file photo shows Navajo code talker Samuel Holiday at the Lion’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Building, St. George, Utah, May 31, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Preston Holiday, St. George News

Navajo is grammatically complex, and at the time of the war, it was not yet a written language and was considered by military officials to be indecipherable.

Holiday and his fellow code talkers fought on the front lines where they sent coded messages back and forth about enemy fire, troop movement and the need for medical help, according to a biography about Holiday at the Native American Project website.

It wasn’t until 1968 when their activities in the war were declassified that the code talkers first received recognition for their vital role in defeating Japan. He and other Navajo veterans have since been recognized with multiple honors, including the establishment of National Navajo Code Talker Day by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001.

Ed. Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated it will be Holiday’s 94th birthday.

Event details

  • What: Samuel Tom Holiday’s 93rd birthday celebration at Georgefest.
  • When: Friday, 5-7 p.m.
  • Where: Town Square Park, 50 S. Main St., St. George.
  • Cost: Free.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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  • 42214 May 30, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Happy Birthday Mr. Holiday. You and your fellow Code Talkers are heros and performed a tremendous service to our country during the war in the Pacific. Those that aren’t familiar with the Code Talkers should take some time to read about their history and honor their service.

  • Law24 May 30, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    There’s a great book called “Windtalkers” written by John Rice that does a great job of telling the story of the Navajo code talkers. A movie was done in 2002 under the same name (“Windtalkers”) starring Nicholas Cage and Adam Beach and is based off the book.

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