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Navajo Code Talkers: A Guide to First-Person Narratives in the Veterans History Project

Biography of Navajo Code Talker Jack Jones, together with a video recording of his oral history interview from the Veterans History Project archives.

Jack Jones

Jack Jones during his oral history interview with Carol Fleming in 2004

Unit: Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division
Dates of Service: March 1943 - November 1945
Battles / Campaigns: New Britain; Peleliu

"It all comes back to the idea that you love your country, you love your government, you love your people. For that purpose, I’m here." (Video interview, 29:39)

Jack Jones was born in 1919 at his family home near Montezuma Creek, Utah, within the Navajo reservation. He remembers his grandparents' traditional teachings from an early age, and how they taught him about his family’s history and Navajo culture. At the age of seven, Jones reported to a boarding school 90 miles away from home in Shiprock, New Mexico. He recalls how students were punished for speaking Navajo, while also having to go through military-style training at school. For high school, Jones attended Phoenix Indian School, a boarding school for students from a variety of tribes. He was proud of the fact that he became a featherweight boxing champion while in high school. Jones finished high school in the late 1930s, and worked as a house painter and at a shipyard in San Francisco for several years before deciding to enlist in the Marine Corps in early 1943.

Jones enlisted and went through boot camp with fellow future Code Talker and VHP participant Thomas Claw. After completing his individual training, Jones was shipped out to Australia before joining up with the 1st Marine Division for the latter stages of the New Britain Campaign. After New Britain, Jones and his colleagues spent time in the Russell Islands re-fitting and training for their next operation. He remembers how the Code Talkers worked together to constantly improve the Navajo Code and ensure that they were all using the same techniques and procedures across different commands. The 1st Marine Division’s next operation turned out to be the Battle of Peleliu in September 1944, where Jack Jones landed with the third wave. Jones and his comrades met heavy resistance on the beaches, where he remembers using the Navajo Code to coordinate the use of air support and naval gunfire support that paved the way for Marine advances. Wounded when a Japanese artillery round exploded close to him, he was evacuated to a medical facility on Guadalcanal. From there, he was sent back to the United States by ship, and recalls the elation of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on arrival in San Francisco. While very proud of the Marine Corps' and the Code Talkers’ accomplishments, Jones was also deeply saddened by the prejudice and discrimination that Native Americans faced.

In his retirement, Jones became involved in a legal battle to restore Navajo land rights in the Montezuma Creek area of Utah.1 He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 96.

Oral History Interview

Interview Excerpts

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Further Reading

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Notes

  1. Laura Tohe, Code Talker Stories (Tucson: Rio Nuevo, 2012), 80-83. Back to text