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If you happen to find yourself dining with a Navajo code talker, don’t order the baked potato.Laura Tohe, an Arizona State University professor and daughter of a Navajo Code Talker, tells an audience at Sedona Winds in the Village of Oak Creek, about the code talkers during her presentation,  “Armed with our Language, We Went To War,” on Wednesday, May 7.

In the parlance of the indecipherable code that helped the United States defeat Japan in World War II, a potato represented a grenade.

The Navajo language lacked words for much of the modern military hardware, so code talkers had to make due, according to Laura Tohe, an Arizona State University professor who spent five years collecting the oral history of men who served in the program.

“For instance, there’s no Diné [Navajo] word for ‘fighter bomber,’ so they described what a fighter bomber did and determined that it reminded them of a hummingbird, which they did have a word for,” she said during an appearance Wednesday, May 7, at Sedona Winds in the Village of Oak Creek.

A dive bomber was a chicken hawk. An observation plane was an owl and a tank was a turtle, according to Tohe, whose father was a code talker.

“My favorite is grenade,” she said with a smile. “It is small, can be held in your hand and you could throw it — so it was a potato.”

For the full story, see the Friday, May 9, edition of the Sedona Red Rock News.


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  • Shirley

    Very good article and interesting. I would like to read the full story but I already have an e-edition to my local paper in another city so sadly I will not be able to know the rest of the story!

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