Navajo Code Talker Day Pays Tribute to WWII Coders

Honoring Navajo Code Talker Day is not merely an act of remembrance but an acknowledgment of the valor, unique linguistic aptitude and dedication of the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II.

older man in red marines beret and uniform yellow shirt holds USA flag while sitting on coucn is his living room. His wife in traditional Navajo dress and turquoise necklace looks on during Navajo code talker interview and Navajo Code Talker Day
Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee in Tuba City home | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Navajo Code Talkers Day

When encrypted machines and codes failed to withstand the enemy’s deciphers, the intricate tapestry of the Navajo language became an unbreakable code, ensuring the safe passage of vital information among the Allies.

Celebrating Navajo Code Talker Day on August 14 is an opportunity to pay tribute to the Navajo Code Talkers’ indomitable spirit and recognize their pivotal role in shaping history. Their service reminds us that true strength often arises from the convergence of culture, innovation, and unwavering commitment to a cause.

On Navajo Code Talker Day, we honor the over 400 trained Navajo code talkers who served in WWII. Here is an interview with one of them.

Interview with Navajo Code Talker

August 2015, Tuba City, Arizona–Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee turns 94 on Veteran’s Day. A celebration will be held in Tuba City, Arizona, for the retired Sargent Major who served in the United States Marine Corps during WWII.

He lives on the Navajo Nation, less than 60 miles from the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Dan Akee is one of twelve Navajo code talkers left in the United States in 2015. 

He was one of over 44,000 Native Americans who served in the US military during WWII and one of 400 trained Navajo code talkers. Dan Akee will be 94 years old on his November 11, 2015, birthday.

“I am very happy that all Navajos should be very proud of us because their language has been used … The whole United States was very proud of us. It took 25 years till it was released — until we could start talking about the Code Talkers. I am very happy a lot of people respect me,” said Dan Akee in an exclusive interview with Stacey Wittig.

He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor awarded to service men and women.

Congressional Medal of Honor in the hands of 94-year-old veteran and Navajo Code Talker

In the 1960s, Dan Akee built a home that is now in dire need of repair and renovation. He is currently unable to reside in the house due to its unlivable condition.

Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit with offices in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Bozeman, Montana, is coordinating a campaign to raise $70K in donations and in-kind materials to renovate his home by Christmas Day 2015. Red Feather has served Native Americans and housing needs for over 20 years.

“When we heard about Navajo code talker Dan Akee, we knew we had to do something quick,” said Mark Hall, Executive Director of Red Feather Development Group, in a press release. “We are thrilled in how the Veterans and the entire community is responding; it’s beautiful.”

“All I want to do before I die is live in the house I built with my own hands 60 years ago,” said Dan Akee to his son Danny Akee, his caretaker. Dan Akee is in a wheelchair full-time and was recently hospitalized for pneumonia.

Akee family home in Tuba City, AZ, needs renovation.

“When my father was in the hospital, he wasn’t praying for his health; he was praying for the money to fix the house. Now that Red Feather has gotten involved, we know my dad’s dream of living in his house is going to come true,” Danny Akee smiles and gets tears in his eyes thinking of this happening for his father, a national hero, his hero.

Danny Akee, son of WWII Code Talker, in a home that needs renovation.

Life of Navajo Code Talker, Dan Akee

Dan Akee was born in Coalmine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation and named Red Moccasins. He is a descendant of the Kiyanni and Ashihii clans, born on November 11, 1922.

Dan Akee was 21 years old when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. 

He trained as a code talker at Camp Pendleton and was detailed to the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment. From 1943-45, Akee took part in some of the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific, including the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and two campaigns of Iwo Jima. 

He memorized over 555 Navajo words in a highly classified system of Code Talk, credited as helping win the Battle at Iwo Jima.   During the war, the Navajo Code Talk was never broken. It took Dan Akee over five months to memorize the secret codes.

[Postscript: Dan Akee died Friday, October 14, 2016, two months after Navajo Code Talker Day in Tuba City, Arizona.]

Campaign to Raise Funds for Home Restoration

Red Feather sponsored a crowdfunding campaign to enlist thousands who care about Veterans to help raise $70,000.  

Donors will receive original Akee family Navajo sand paintings when significant donations are made as a thank-you gift. Danny Akee and his wife Marie are already in production at their art studio next door to the house being renovated.

Danny’s wife, Marie Akee, creates traditional sand paintings for donors.

“We better get started; we think lots of people are going to help us make this dream come true,” quipped Danny Akee.

“We are approaching the renovation in a four-phased approach,” Joe Seidenberg, Program Manager for Red Feather, noted. “We are first starting with the most critical items like the roof, windows and doors and working our way up from there.

Please call us if you have access to materials or labor. This is going to take everyone coming together to pull this off.”

Red Feather has planned a bathroom and kitchen renovation that will allow veteran Dan Akee full handicap access along with wheelchair access ramp to the house. 

A kickoff work party was held Saturday, November 7. Over 30 volunteers from the surrounding community came out last Saturday to begin preparing the house for renovation. The work party included President of the Navajo Nation, Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and some of their staff, numerous local veterans, staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and members of the Akee family. The goal is to have the Akee’s home completed for Christmas.

For more information: 
Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit organization
2501 N. 4th Street, Suite 17, Flagstaff, AZ  86004
928-440-5119 (office)

For more information on Navajo Code Talker Day, visit the Ronald Reagan Library.

Stacey Wittig is “UNSTOPPABLE Stacey,” who searches the world for interesting stories. Read about her most recent book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago on Camino, on Amazon.


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