MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif -- Samuel Tsosie, a retired Marine who served as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II, looks into the faces of a younger generation of Marines sitting before him.
He can almost see a younger version of himself.
Tsosie stood in front of group of Marines serving with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, here, March 27, and gave them insight into the history of their beloved unit.
“These Marines remind me a lot of myself back when I was in,” Tsosie said. “We may have had different gear then, but we are the same men.”
The Castle Butte, Ariz., native served with 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, during multiple combat operations in the Pacific Theater. Among those were Peleliu, Okinawa, and Cape Gloucester.
Marines from 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, were invited to listen to Tsosie as he spoke about his four-year tour island hopping in the Pacific.
“We were always wet from the constant rain, always hungry, and always worried if we were going to make it one more day,” Tsosie told the Marines. “War is hell.”
The Marine Corps recruited Navajo Indians during World War II to send encrypted messages containing classified information in the Navajo language. This was done to prevent the Japanese from deciphering radio transmissions and discover plans of future operations.
“Our code was never broken by the Japanese. This is why we were so invaluable to the Marine Corps,” Tsosie said. “We kept many Marines safe because the Japanese could not figure out what we were going to do next.”
“This is a honor having a Marine like Tsosie visit our ranks,” said Sgt. Maj. Connie Travis, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, sergeant major. “This really sheds some light on our past.”
Having a veteran as experienced as Tsosie gives the younger Marines of the battalion a look into their history, said Lt. Col. Timothy Bairstow, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn., 5th Marines.
“All the Marines in the battalion need to be a part of this,” said Bairstow, a native of New York City. “Our Marines need to understand the legacy they must live up to.”
Tsosie was able to see weapons and equipment currently used by Marines during the visit to his old stomping grounds.
“All this gear is so much heavier then what we use to have,” said Tsosie. “But it does look like the Marines nowadays are a lot safer wearing all of this.”
Tsosie expressed pride in being a Marine and serving in World War II.
“From the day you first put on that uniform, you’re a Marine. It changes you,” said Tsosie. “Once a Marine, always Marine.”