Saturday, April 6, 2013

Code Talker

Published in 2005, Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac, is a book about a group of Americans I'd never read about, the Navajos. These young men and the secret code they developed were critical to the Allies during World War 11.

This novel deserves a post here because of how a teen hero bravely dealt with racial prejucide against Native Americans during World War 11.

But also of interest is that Code Talker also raises the topic of fitness, more specifically, fitness for military duty. Lack of physical fitness is seen by military authorities as a threat to national security. Apparently one in four men today are currently fit to serve in the United States Military. Opening the doors to women it is hoped will improve the numbers physically able to serve.

According to Stew Smith a blogger for, " . . . as our adult population grows in waist size and decreases in fitness level, so has American's children's weight and fitness. These are our future military members, police officers, firefighters, and EMT's."

Lack of physical fitness, however, was not a problem in the 1940's for the Navajos who had been recruited into the Marines for their unique language skills.  The protagonist, sixteen year-old Navajo, Ned Bagay, discovered that the "white" boys of U.S. Marines struggled more than the Navajos during basic training.

According to Ned, narrating years later as an old man to his grandchildren:

I was not surprised. Those things that . . . a Marine recruit needed to learn were part of our everyday Navajo life back then. We were used to waking great distances over hard terrain while carrying things. We would stay out with our herds of sheep overnight and in the worst weather. Going for two or three days without eating was not unusual for us . . .

Code Talker provides a fascinating glimpse of the Pacific fighting during that war, and how our prejudices against certain groups diminishes everyone. But more peripherally, though not insignificantly, it touches on how the sedentary lifestyle of American children will affect their ability to join the military and also to perform other necessary jobs as firefighters, police officers, EMT's and much more, not to mention live long, healthy lives.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen this book, but I don't know why I haven't tried it yet. What a fascinating story!