Navajo Code Talkers to get their recognition in West Valley CityNov 30, 2023 12:36PM ● By Darrell Kirby
For years they were among the unsung heroes of World War II.
The Navajo Code Talkers were key to helping the United States gain the upper hand against Japan in various battles in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945, including the taking of the island of Iwo Jima.
The Navajo language had both a simplicity and complexity that enabled the Marines to communicate military strategy in a way that the Japanese could never decipher.
The Navajo Code Talkers, along with local servicemen and servicewomen, were honored during West Valley City’s annual Veterans Day Program in November.
To recognize the Code Talkers, only three of whom are still alive, West Valley City Mayor Karen Lang told the assembled gathering at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center that a bronze bust of a code talker will hopefully be placed in the future at the Utah Veterans Memorial just south of the Cultural Celebration Center. “The proposed statue honors all Native American code talkers from many different tribes but is crafted in the likeness of Allen Dale June,” Lang said.
June, a Marine sergeant and long-time West Valley City resident, was one of the 29 original code talkers. He died in 2010 at the age of 91.
West Valley Arts is seeking donations from the community to make the statue a reality. “Your donation will help fund the construction, installation, and maintenance of this awe-inspiring monument. Join us in preserving the history of these unsung heroes, so their legacy may continue to inspire future generations,” the city’s arts organization wrote in a Facebook post.
For more information and to donate, visit www.wvcarts.org/code-talkers-memorial-statue.html.
Meanwhile, Vietnam veteran Larry Taylor appreciated West Valley City’s recognition of the sacrifice he and other military men and women made, especially when he recalls how it was when he returned home 50-plus years ago.
“When I came, we were really ridiculed and made us feel like we weren’t worth anything,” said the Taylorsville resident who served from 1970-1971 and was awarded a Purple Heart. “This now tells us our sacrifice was worth something.”
Taylor and his brother, also a Purple Heart recipient, both served in Vietnam, but he died in 2014 from the effects of Agent Orange, a herbicide used by the military to kill off leaves and foliage in the dense tropical forests of Vietnam that provided enemy cover.
Burton Pett of South Jordan, is a Korean War Army vet who fought in that conflict from 1950 to 1952.
He said he doesn’t see his service as a sacrifice but rather a duty that he would have done again if asked or needed. “I would never give up what I did at that time,” the 93-year-old said. “Fortunately, I didn’t have any repercussions afterward,” Pett added, referring to the physical, mental, and emotional toll that war can take on many soldiers. “It was definitely not easy but If I could opt out, I wouldn’t.”
Still, Pett said he kept the grimmer parts of the war that he witnessed to himself until only a few years ago when he started opening up more about what he saw and experienced. “I still don’t talk about the really bad parts,” he said.
Pett remembers how “bad off” many Korean citizens were during the war. “They had absolutely nothing. To this day, I don’t know how they survived. If we had a candy bar, we’d give it to them.”
Pett said he’s not aware of any of his Army buddies that are still around seven decades later. “I’ve been fortunate. That’s all I can say.” λ