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Book Review: Under the Eagle, by Samuel Holiday and Robert S. McPherson

By HistoryNet Staff 
Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: February 26, 2014 
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Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker, by Samuel Holiday and Robert S. McPherson, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2013, $19.95

In Under the Eagle Robert S. MacPherson of Utah State University has produced a fine autobiography of Navajo code talker Samuel Holiday.

Tech. Sgt. Philip Johnston, the son of an Arizona missionary with knowledge of the Navajo language, started the code-talker program for the U.S. Marines in 1942. The final edition of Navajo code comprised 625 words covering everything from rank to types of ships. Holiday, born in 1924, was not among the first men to join the program, but his memoirs add greatly to the record of the code talkers' activities.

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In service from Kwajalein to Saipan, Holiday was almost killed twice and was twice taken prisoner by fellow Marines who mistook him for a Japanese infiltrator. On Tinian and Iwo Jima, Holiday fully proved his worth, and he regarded himself as a full-fledged eagle—both in Navajo religious and American national terms.

Records remain incomplete as to the number of Navajo soldiers who served, how many were code talkers and the equipment they used. The latter did include the TBX radio, which required a four-man team to operate. Readers seeking to understand the Navajo code talkers' important contribution to victory in the Pacific will find Under the Eagle absorbing.

—Thomas Zacharis


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