Monday, July 11, 2005


This movie was on over the July 4th holiday weekend, and the History Channel seems to like to play it a lot, too. I never get tired of watching it, though I think I've seen it through from beginning to end only once--usually, I just flip in in the middle, and then stick with it.

It's not a profound film, and it is very violent; my mother-in-law saw it once, and barely made it through it at that. But it is a war film, and it is a buddy movie, and it does that job well--and most important, it highlights an aspect of history that remained buried for a long time after WWII, although it is more talked about and better-known today.

The Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in the defeat of the Japanese in WWII, and more and more people are hearing about that today. But some other important things are not as well known, although they should be. I learned this from my professor, Dr. Gary Witherspoon, who taught Navajo language, culture, and history.

After the Long Walk, where Kit Carson pursued his anti-Navajo campaign by killing the animals and destroying the crops of the Navajo, and forcing them to abandon their homes and march far away from their land, the Navajos eventually were able to return to their home. But governmental policies to protect US markets led to more massive killings of Navajo livestock in the early 20th century. As an outsider, I cannot talk with authority on how the Navajos feel about their animals--I can only say that it was a tremendous tragedy on both an economic and a personal level for them. They had every right to be bitter about it, and to tell the US to take a hike when they came looking for help to defeat the Japanese. That they did not, despite the grievances the American government had visited on them, and that they were able to put together such a decisive effort to defeat the Japanese, speaks far more highly to their patriotism and bravery than I can do justice to.


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