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English --> engmovie-000 --> e-engmov-013 (engstudy-014) Same CN
A downloaded movie used eMule with Morricone's music
"Navajo Joe" (and about Navajo)(1966)
A Dollar a Head/Savage Run
The movie was provided by Lajiao
66-08 Office
Relative music
The composer Ennio Morricone was shown as LEO NICHOLS in this movie
Navajo Joe/A Dollar a Head/Savage Run (1966) 
Navajo Joe/A Dollar a Head/
Navajo Joe/Savage Run (1966) 
About the movie 01, 02, 03, 04            About its OST music 01, 02, 03, 04
About the movie from IMDB (See here)

User Rating:6.1/10 382 votes
Director:Sergio Corbucci

Writers:Fernando Di Leo (writer)
Ugo Pirro (story)
Release Date:25 November 1966 (Italy) more

Original Music by Ennio Morricone (as Leo Nichols)

Also Known As (AKA)
A Dollar a Head USA
An seinen Stiefeln klebte Blut West Germany
Dollaro a testa, Un Italy (working title)
Joe, el implacable Spain
Joe, o Pistoleiro Implacável Brazil
Kopfgeld - Ein Dollar West Germany
Navajo Joe Portugal
Navajo Joe - 1 dollari p??nahasta Finland
Savage Run USA
Parents Guide:Add content advisory for parents
Runtime:Italy:93 min | Spain:88 min | USA:93 min
Country:Italy | Spain
Color:Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:2.35 : 1 more
Sound Mix:Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Certification:Australia:M | West Germany:18 (nf) | Finland:K-16 | Norway:16 | Sweden:15
Filming Locations:Colmenar, Madrid, Spain more
MOVIEmeter: 43% since last week why?
Company:C.B. Films S.A. more


Cast (Cast overview, first billed only)

Burt Reynolds ... Joe
Aldo Sambrell ... Duncan (bandit leader)
Nicoletta Machiavelli ... Estella (Mrs. Lynne's maid)
Fernando Rey ... Father Rattigan
Tanya Lopert ... Maria (saloon girl)
Franca Polesello ... Barbara (saloon girl)
Lucia Modugno ... Geraldine (wounded saloonn girl)
Pierre Cressoy ... Dr. Chester Lynne (as Peter Cross)
Roberto Paoletti
Mario Lanfranchi ... Jefferson Clay (Esperanza mayor)
Nino Imparato ... Chuck (banjo player)
ángel álvarez ... Oliver Blackwood (bank manager)
Lucio Rosato ... Jeffrey Duncan
Rafael Albaicín ... Bandit
Valeria Sabel ... Honor

Synopsis and user comment


01 - The sole survivor of a bloody massacre vows revenge on his attackers and on the men who killed his wife (IMDB)

02 - Navajo Joe is a 1966 Italian/Spanish Spaghetti Western, directed by Sergio Corbucci. It was filmed in Spain.

Navajo Joe stars Burt Reynolds in his first feature film, as the titular character, a Navajo Indian opposing a group of bandits responsible for killing his tribe.

The film's score was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Having massacred an Indian village, outlaw Duncan finds his men falling victim to a solitary rider, Navajo Joe. Joe saves two prostitutes who have overheard Duncan plot with Lynne, the town doctor, to steal a train full of money belonging to the bank. Joe steals the train back from Duncan's gang. He asks the townspeople of Esperanza to pay him to protect them from Duncan, but they reject him, as they "don't make bargains with Indians." Lynne's wife Honor persuades them otherwise. Joe sets a trap for Duncan but is caught and tortured; Lynne and Honor are killed. Rescued by an old man from the saloon, Joe again steals the train and eradicates Duncan's gang. There is then a showdown in an Indian cemetery, where Joe reclaims the pendant which Duncan stole from his wife when he murdered her. Both expire.(here)

03 - Navajo Joe

The Film:
Sergio Leone is the director most closely associated with the European-produced westerns popularly referred to as "spaghetti westerns." Leone's classics Dollars trilogy starring Clint Eastwood--A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly--are arguably the most popular and well known spaghetti westerns, and helped establish the director as the genre's preeminent filmmaker. And while Leone is popularly thought of as the director who gave life to the spaghetti western, it would be the other Sergio--director Sergio Corbucci--that gave the genre its soul.
There was somewhere close to 600 spaghetti westerns produced in the 1960s and 1970s; but despite that incredible number, only a small are worth remembering, let alone any good. Of the westerns produced some of the best the genre has to offer were directed by Corbucci. Among his best work you will find such classics as Django, Companeros, The Great Silence and The Hellbenders, all of which went a long way to helping spaghetti westerns create their own unique, stylish vision. One of his earlier westerns was 1966's Navajo Joe, a film not among Corbucci's best, but still better than many of the other genre entries.

Burt Reynolds stars as Joe, a Navajo warrior out for revenge when a gang of sadistic outlaws slaughters his woman and tribe. The gang, led by the ridiculously nefarious Duncan (Aldo Sambrell), a half-breed with hatred for the entire human race coursing through his veins, has been butchering Indians for their scalps, which are then sold for a dollar each. This, of course, leads Duncan and his men to the bad side of Joe, who begins systematically hunting the evil bastards. When Duncan and his men make plans to rob a train headed for the peace-loving town of Esperanza, Joe manages to thwart their plan. From there, Joe convinces the townspeople to pay him a bounty of Duncan and his gang--one dollar from each person in town, for every outlaw Joe scalps--which leads to an inevitable massacre of not-so epic proportions.

Sergio Leone had struck gold when he recruited American television star Clint Eastwood to star in his film A Fistful of Dollars. Eastwood was the star of Rawhide, and was looking to make a transition to film. Because of the tremendous success of Leone and Eastwood's pairing, other Italian filmmakers tried to recapture the magic with films like Navajo Joe. At the time, Reynolds was a television actor, best known for his recurring role on the popular series Gunsmoke, and trying to recreate the miracle of Eastwood must have seemed like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Reynolds was working with a director who had yet to find his vision, in a movie that was destined to be mediocre at best.

The key to truly appreciating and understanding Navajo Joe is appreciating and understanding the spaghetti western genre. By and large, these were films that were put together very quickly, with little regard for quality or story. The best of the genre are the ones with compelling stories, told with distinct visual style, in a manner that makes sense to people outside the working class audiences of southern Italy. These films are few and far between. After the truly good films, there comes the films that are just plain okay--at least within the context of other spaghetti westerns. That is to say that these are the films that are nearly as bad as the vast majority of genre entries, but they certainly don't stand up to much discerning scrutiny outside of the genre. Navajo Joe is one of these films. It is a better-than-average spaghetti western, but it certainly is not one of Corbucci's better films, nor is it really all that good (unless you're comparing it to something ridiculously bad like Django Kills Silently).

The problems with Navajo Joe are plenty, and typical of the genre. First and foremost is a script that is just plain bad. There's no getting around it, or making excuses for it--the script is simply bad. But making matters worse is Reynolds' performance, which registers almost no charisma whatsoever. Reynolds looks like the last thing he wants to do is be starring in some Italian-produced film being shot in Spain, in which he stars as murderous Indian. And that lack of enthusiasm shows during the thankfully few times he opens his mouth to deliver the already banal and lackluster dialog.

Where Navajo Joe succeeds is in the visual flair of Corbucci's direction. Again, this is far from his best film, but he is clearly laying the groundwork and developing the style that would make films like Django (made the same year as Navajo Joe) and Companeros among the very best of the genre. Cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti also shot Corbucci's The Great Silence, and it is easy to see the chemistry between the two during the scenes that actually work. You can also see early signs of some of the recurring themes that pop up in his films, including nontraditional protagonists--in addition to Joe, the film's other "heroes" include an aging musician and his show girl companions. Corbucci is also fond of torturing his heroes, often to the point of near death, only to resurrect them in time to vanquish evil (the notable exception being the seminal filmThe Great Silence, one of the most bleak movies of all time). Ennio Morricone, who composed the scores for close to 40 spaghetti westerns, including all of Leone's and several of Corbucci's better films, provides one of his most distinctive and memorable soundtracks with Navajo Joe.

Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, Navajo Joe is a movie that will appeal to true fans of the spaghetti western, But anyone looking for a film that can be considered "good" in the more traditional sense of the word, will most likely be disappointed by this uneven film, You'll be better off watching Corbucci's Companeros, The Great Silence or Django, all of which are infinitely better films.

Navajo Joe is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. The picture quality ranges from very good to fair, and it looks like the DVD was mastered from several different sources. Overall, the print is clean, with no visible scratches, but there is noticeable color difference between some scenes, and some sequences look as if they have a more grainy quality. There is also a bit of hesitation during some chapter transitions. Overall, the video quality is disappointing, especially given the quality of the spaghetti westerns released by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.

Navajo Joe is presented in mono. The sound levels are all good, with a quality mix that remains consistent throughout. Most important, Ennio Morricone's bizarre musical score--featuring a chorus chanting, "Na-VA-hoe Joe, Na-VA-hoe Joe, Na-VA-hoe Joe-ooooh!"--sounds great.

Bonus Material:
There are no bonus materials. You would think MGM could have at least put the trailers for the Leone/Eastwood films on the disc, or maybe even the Sabata films starring Lee Van Cleef, all of which they put out, but no such luck.

Final Thoughts:
Die hard spaghetti western fans will want to add this one to their collection, but everyone else would be better off renting Navajo Joe.(here)


04 - NAVAJO JOE (1966)
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Before moaning, “Oh no, Burt Reynolds as an Indian!”, understand that NAVAJO JOE is a highly recommended Spaghetti Western directed by the prolific Sergio Corbucci, the man behind DJANGO and THE GREAT SILENCE. The legend is that Reynolds agreed to star in the production as he was under the impression that Sergio Leone would be directing (he must have saw what Leone did for Clint Eastwood’s career) but it was too late to back out after learning Corbucci would be at the helm. Well, Reynolds did not become a household name because of Italian-made westerns, but he would still go on to be one of the biggest movie stars of all time, and although he often publicly denounced this film as his worst, its far from that and extremely entertaining.

A band of downright merciless bandits led by Duncan (Aldo Sambrell) kill peaceful native Indians in cold blood, retaining their scalps for profit. One of the poor women they happen to mutilate is the mate of a Navajo Indian named Joe (Burt Reynolds), who hastily makes it his mission to get revenge. When Duncan and his small army are told that the scalps are no longer collected by authorities, they make a deal with the corrupt Dr. Chester Lynne (Pierre Cressoy) to steal a large amount of money on its way to the town of Esperanza via a passenger train. Joe is able to thwart the heist (after Duncan and company massacre everyone on the train, sans a small child), but when the town realizes these destructive killers will soon be attacking, they make a deal with the brave Indian to protect them and their precious loot.

The plot is simple enough; a loved one is murdered, a robbery is attempted, a town is threatened and a brave hero must come forth to face up to the bad guys. But that’s just fine, because NAVAJO JOE works well in its action-packed 92 minutes, shot mostly outdoors among beautiful Spanish landscapes and boasting some truly scrumptious cinematography. It doesn’t waste much time with a romantic subplot, though there is a rather half-baked relationship between Joe and the pleasant servant Estella (played by stunning Italian-born brunette Nicoletta Machiavelli). This is basically old fashioned “good guys vs. bad guys” (though the good guys are mainly Joe, Estella, a banjo player and a trio of showgirls), with an extremely high body count and a surprising amount of violence for the mid 1960s (scalpings, stabbings, forehead carvings, gunshots in the face, etc.).

Tan-painted and wearing a black long-banged wig that almost makes him look like he should be playing with a 1960s Garage band, Burt Reynolds suitably deadpans through the role of Joe in traditional no-nonsense cinematic tough guy mode; athletic and smart enough to outwit his many adversaries. He may not have had fun making the film (reportedly, he left the set at one point to do a TV commercial) but it certainly looks like he did. Aldo Sambrell, an actor you’ve seen dozens of times, usually in the background of Sergio Leone westerns, is great as the cold-blooded Duncan, exemplifying pure evil in his facial expressions alone. Fernando Rey (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) is pretty much wasted as a priest, but has at least one memorable scene with Sambrell. For fans of Euro exploitation, the crew is actually more interesting than the cast, as director Fernando Di Leo (SLAUGHTER HOTEL) served as one of the writers, future cannibal movie maven Ruggero Deodato was an assistant director and Ennio Morricone supplied the distinct score (“Navajo Joe” is even given a vocal theme) under the pseudonym “Leo Nichols.” As one of the film’s biggest champions, Quentin Tarantino would later use some of the music for his KILL BILL VOLUME 2 soundtrack.

Originally released theatrically in the U.S. by United Artists, MGM thankfully continues to extract from its extensive film library by granting us NAVAJO JOE on DVD. Previously available as a pan and scan VHS cassette, as well as a non-anamorphic Japanese disc released several years ago, this new DVD has the film looking better than ever before. Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, this is a handsome transfer with crisp detail, nice colors and natural fleshtones, all wrapped up in a blemish-free image that proves the immaculateness of the film’s original elements. There’s only one audio option, a clean-sounding English mono track (which carries Reynolds’ real voice) as well as optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. (George R. Reis)(here)

05 - Burt Reynolds in the title role takes out revenge on Aldo Sanbrell and his gang in this extremely violent and unsympathetic Spaghetti Western. This film shows off Reynolds' great physique and athletic prowess (circa 1966) under Sergio Corbucci's direction. Ennio Morricone (Leo Nichols) composed a rather over the top pseudo-American Indian score which is just wild. The final confrontation between Reynolds and Sanbrell is so incredible it has to be seen.

Burt Reynolds (before his frantic car chase days)plays a Native-American Man-With-No-Name in an Italian western straight out of the mid-1960s, when these things were a fad. Burt is tight-lipped and stoic as he trails a band of killers who murdered his wife and other innocent victims in a "scalphunter" raid. The outlaw gang looks like a reunion of Sergio Leone extras. The plot is one long search and destroy as "Joe" (a/k/a Burt Reynolds) wreaks havoc on the bad guys. One definite strength of the film is the exciting background music, by Ennio Morricone. (The same composer who did the Clint Eastwood Italian westerns). Anyway, don't expect a John Ford classic western. The desolate Spanish countryside is no comparison to Monument Valley. There is no poetry and art here. Only brutal, fast, and violent action, which takes place with very little fake blood spilling all over the screen. The final showdown in the Indian grave-yard has an air of mystery and tragedy as our hero fights to the death among his ancestors. The last scene of the riderless Indian pony manages some slight poignancy. European westerns, much as Japanese science-fiction movies, are not for everybody. Those with the acquired taste should find this one a likable time-waster. Love that crazy drumbeat and human voice combination in the theme music(here)

06 - User Comments: One of the better known spaghetti westerns, directed by Sergio Corbucci, probably the most prolific director of spaghettis. While it was Sergio Leone who made the masterpieces, Corbucci carved out his own little niche and made several important contributions to the genre. Navajo Joe is also known for featuring the up-and-coming Burt Reynolds in one of his earliest roles.

Unlike Sergio Leone, Corbucci seems to have had a really passionate agenda for making what he saw as inflammatory anti-westerns. Here his mission is to restore the balance of treatment of Native Americans in the Hollywood western. He wasn't being quite as radical as it at first appears though, seeing as Robert Aldrich had done the same thing ten years earlier with Apache, starring cinema's other famous Burt (Lancaster). Joe is an interesting character compared to the usual spaghetti anti-hero though, as his extortion and cynicism are continually influenced by this higher purpose he has of seeking justice.

Italian westerns were really becoming big business by this point, and Navajo Joe has somewhat bigger production values than Corbucci's earlier films. The dubbing is of a much higher quality than that in Django, although it's still not great. Nothing can cover the weakness of the plot - aside from the Native American angle it's a fairly basic train robbery story. There's a half-hearted attempt at injecting some mystery and suspense into it with the Doctor Lynn character doing an inside job, but this never really gets off the ground. The actual dialogue is terrible too.

Corbucci showed promise as a director in Django, but in Navajo Joe the direction is nothing special. Whereas as Django made great use of interiors and dark spaces, Navajo Joe is in 'scope and mostly set outdoors, but Corbucci really has no feel for landscapes. He gives a great rough and ready feel to the action scenes, but overall there are just too many zooms and pointless camera moves.

Although he would later become a big star back home, Burt Reynolds isn't particularly good here. He moves fairly well, and gives Joe just the right note of self-absorbed nonchalance, but when he opens his mouth terrible things happen. He puts in these little pauses, as if trying to deliver lines like John Wayne, except he falls well short. He actually manages to do the seemingly impossible and do an unconvincing job of dubbing himself. The only acting performance really worth noting is that of Aldo Sanbrell. Sanbrell was one of the most prolific spaghetti character actors, playing third-bad-guy-on-the-left in dozens of pictures. Here is a rare chance to seem him in a lead role, and he's actually not bad. Not good, but not bad either.

Burt Reynolds once stated that this was the worst film he ever made. It's probably not, (as anyone who's seen the Smokey and the Bandit sequels will testify) but it is a fairly bad one, and if Reynolds wasn't familiar with exploitation cinema he no doubt wondered what the hell he was doing. Corbucci had already made one of the best loved spaghettis (Django) and would go on to make some real classics (The Mercenary, The Great Silence), but Navajo Joe was a real step backwards in his career. (IMDB)

About the director Sergio Corbucci
Relevant site 01, 02, 03, 04, 05
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
1927.12.6 -- 1990.12.1


WIKI: Sergio Corbucci ( December 6, 1927 - December 1, 1990) was an Italian movie director. Most of his films are very violent, yet intelligent action movies. He is best known for his spaghetti westerns. Many of these action movies contain social criticism of left-wing political background. Corbucci actually was a communist. The art-direction in his movies is mostly surrealistic and apocalyptic, another trademark is his sense for black humour.

He is the older brother of Bruno Corbucci. Corbucci started his career by directing mostly low-budget sword and sandal movies. His first commercial success was with the cult spaghetti western Django, starring Franco Nero, the leading man in many of his movies. After Django, Corbucci made many other spaghetti westerns, which made him the most successful Italian western director after Sergio Leone and one of Italy's most productive directors. His most famous of these pictures was The Great Silence, a dark and gruesome western starring a mute action hero and a psychopathic bad guy. The film was banned in some countries for its excessive display of violence. In the 1970s and 1980s Corbucci mostly directed comedies, often starring Adriano Celentano. His movies were rarely taken seriously by contemporary critics and he was considered an exploitation director, but Corbucci has managed to attain a cult reputation. (here)



Night Club ------- (1989)
Giorni del commissario Ambrosio, I ------- (1988)
Roba da ricchi ------- (1987)
Rimini Rimini ------- (1987)
Sono un fenomeno paranormale ------- (1985)
A tu per tu ------- (1984)
Questo e quello ------- (1983)
Conte Tacchia, Il ------- (1983)
Sing Sing ------- (1983)
Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro ------- (1981)
Mi faccio la barca ------- (1980)
超能警察/超能警探 Poliziotto superpiù ------- (1980)
小子立奇功 Pari e dispari ------- (1978)
Mazzetta, La ------- (1978)
Giallo napoletano ------- (1978)
Tre tigri contro tre tigri ------- (1977)
Ecco noi per esempio ------- (1977)
Signor Robinson, mostruosa storia d'amore e d'avventure, Il ------- (1976)
Bluff storia di truffe e di imbroglioni ------- (1976)
Di che segno sei? ------- (1975)
Bianco, il giallo, il nero, Il ------- (1975)
Bestione, Il ------- (1974)
Banda J.S.: Cronaca criminale del Far West, La ------- (1972)
Che c'entriamo noi con la rivoluzione? ------- (1972)
Er più: storia d'amore e di coltello ------- (1971)
Vamos a matar, compa?eros ------- (1970)
Specialisti, Gli ------- (1969)
雪海深仇 Grande silenzio, Il ------- (1968)
无情职业快抢手 Mercenario, Il ------- (1968)
Crudeli, I ------- (1967)
Bersaglio mobile ------- (1967)
Uomo che ride, L' ------- (1966)
Johnny Oro ------- (1966)
迪亚戈 Django ------- (1966)
Navajo Joe ------- (1966)
Minnesota Clay ------- (1965)
Massacro al Grande Canyon ------- (1965)
Onorevoli, Gli ------- (1963)
Monaco di Monza, Il ------- (1963)
Figlio di Spartacus, Il ------- (1963)
Smemorato di Collegno, Lo ------- (1962)
Giorno più corto, Il ------- (1962)
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Due marescialli, I ------- (1961)
Totò, Peppino e la dolce vita ------- (1961)
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director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci
director Sergio Corbucci


Navajo and Navajo Indian Reservation

The Navajo Nation (Diné Bikéyah in the Navajo language) is a semi-autonomous Native American homeland covering about 26,000 square miles (67,339 square kilometres, 17 million acres), occupying all of northeastern Arizona, the southeast portion of Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. It is the largest land area assigned primarily to a Native American jurisdiction within the United States.

The Nation encompasses the land, kinship, language, religion, and the right of its people to govern themselves. Members of the Nation are often known as Navajo (or Navaho) but traditionally call themselves Diné (sometimes spelled in English as Dineh) which means the people.

The 2000 census reported 298,215 Navajo people living throughout the United States, of which 173,987 were within the Navajo Nation boundaries. Of these, 131,166 lived in Arizona (17,512 in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix).

Because the Navajo Nation includes land in three states, its Division of Economic Development compiles census data for the Navajo Nation as a whole. Another group lives on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation along the Colorado River in California and Arizona.(See here)

The Navajo Indian Reservation (Navajo Country), established in 1868, is the largest Indian reservation in the United States. Lying for the most part in Arizona, it is bounded on the west by the Colorado River and on the north by Lake Powell, a long artificial lake formed in a canyon, and the San Juan River; the boundaries on the east and south are ruler straight. Much of the central part of the territory, roughly half of which is barren and infertile, is a desertic tableland slashed by canyons. To the east, striking north-south, are the Chuska Mountains, with Pastora Peak (9,413ft/2,869m); to the northeast is the Ute Mountain
... More >
Indian Reservation in Colorado; and to the southwest is the Hopi Indian Reservation, which has an area of some 560sq.mi/1, The most interesting parts of Navajo Country, both scenically and culturally, are organized and protected as Tribal Parks or National Monuments. The largest settlements in the reservation are Window Rock (Navajo), the Indian-run administrative center of the reservation, and Hotevilla(See here) (More 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07. 08 )

Navajo and Navajo Code


Philip Johnston proposed the use of Navajo to the United States Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. The idea was accepted, and the Navajo code was formally developed and modeled on the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet that uses agreed-upon English words to represent letters. As it was determined that phonetically spelling out all military terms letter by letter into words—while in combat—would be too time consuming, some terms, concepts, tactics and instruments of modern warfare were given uniquely formal descriptive nomenclatures in Navajo (the word for "potato" being used to refer to a hand grenade, or "tortoise" to a tank, for example).

A codebook was developed to teach the many relevant words and concepts to new initiates. The text was for classroom purposes only, and was never to be taken into the field. The uninitiated would hear truncated and disjointed strings of individual unrelated nouns and verbs. The code talkers memorized all these variations and practiced their rapid use under stressful conditions.

As the war progressed, additional code words were added on and incorporated program-wide, and in other instances, informal short-cut code words were devised for a particular campaign and not disseminated beyond the area of operation. To ensure a consistent use of code terminologies throughout the Pacific Theater, representative code talkers of each of the U.S. Marine divisions met in Hawaii to discuss shortcomings in the code, incorporate new terms into the system, and update their codebooks. These representatives in turn would train the other code talkers who could not attend the meeting.

The Navajo code talkers were also deployed in the Korean War; the use of code talkers ended shortly into the Vietnam War.(See here)


Navajo Code Talkers, whose ranks exceed 400 during the course of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Have been credited with saving countless lives and hastening the end of the war. The Code Talker's served in all six Marine divisions from 1942 to 1945.

The Code Talker's primary job was to talk and transmit information on tactics, troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield information via telegraphs and radios in their native dialect. A major advantage of the code talker system was its speed. The method of using Morse code often took hours where as, the Navajos handled a message in minutes. It has been said that if was not for the Navajo Code Talker's, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.

The Navajo's unwritten language was understood by fewer than 30 non-Navajo's at the time of WWII. The size and complexity of the language made the code extremely difficult to comprehend, much less decipher. It was not until 1968 that the code became declassified by the US Government. (here)


Early in 1942 Philip Johnson, met Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, and suggested that the U.S. Marines used the Navajo language as a secret code. Johnson, who had grown up on an Navajo Reservation, argued that because it of its complex syntax, tonal qualities and dialect, the Japanese cryptographers would find it impossible to decipher. He also pointed out that Navajo was not a written language and less than 30 non-Navajos understood it. Johnson added that it was an extremely complicated language. Meaning in the language is not only dependent on accurate pronounciation, the tonal emphasis can totally change the sense of a word

Vogel was convinced by Johnson's arguments and it was decided to establish a Navajo code programme at Camp Pendleton at Oceanside, California. In May 1942 the first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were recruited. Over the next few months more than 450 frequently used military terms were given Navajo equivalents. For example, dah-he-tih-hi was the Navajo word for hummingbird. In the code dah-he-tih-hi now became the word for fighter plane. Whereas toh-at (between waters) meant Britain.

An estimated 400 Navajos agents were trained to use the code and around 300 saw action in the field. Speaking Navajo and using an additional code within that, they were able to convey information and orders among Marine units and Navy warships and aircraft. The Code Talkers served in all six Marine divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine parachute units. The Code Talkers were a part of every major Marine assault during the Second World War and first saw action on 7th August 1942 when the marines landed on Guadalcanal.

Merril Sandoval and several other Navajos who was sent with the marines that invaded Japanese held Iwo Jima on 19th February, 1945. The Navajo Code Talkers were distributed among the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine divisions. Sandoval's job was to stay behind the frontline and translate reports from two-man code talker teams elsewhere on the island. Sandoval then sent back these messages to military commanders based on Hawaii. Sandoval was also responsible for passing on orders to the U.S. Marines on the frontline.

Some senior officers believe that the contribution of the Navajo code played an important role in the success of the operation as the Japanese had already broken the codes of the United States Army and the United States Air Force. Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signals officer, later argued: "Were it not for the Navajos, the marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."

Being a Navajo Code Talker was a dangerous occupation. According to Merril Sandoval, Navajo soldiers were at great risk from being shot in battle by their own side: "Those city kids had no idea. On the frontline, some of them mistook us for Japanese."

Sandoval and his team of code talkers fought throughout the Pacific campaign and were with the U.S. Marines when they arrived in Japan in September 1945.

The role of the Navajo code breakers was kept a secret until 1968. It was claimed that the main reason for this was that the military might want to use the code again after the war. Another factor might have been because the government had for many years been involved in trying to destroy the Navajo language. For example, during the Second World War, while the Code Talkers were risking their lives on the frontline, back home, Navajo children were being punished at reservation schools for speaking their native language.

In December 1981 President Ronald Reagan awarded the Navajo Code Talkers with a Certificate of Appreciation. A campaign led by Senator Jeff Bingaman led to the first 29 Code Breakers receiving Congressional Gold Medals in 2001 and the rest received Silver Medals. A Hollywood film based on the role of the Navajo code talkers, Windtalkers, appeared in 2002.(here)


Navajo and movie Windtalkers

The film begins with corporal Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) and a platoon of his fellow Marines fighting Japanese forces on Guadacanal in the Solomon Islands in 1943. The outnumbered Marines are killed one by one, and as Enders mourns over the body of a friend, a grenade explosion knocks Enders over.

Enders is then transported to a field hospital where he is awarded the Purple Heart, before being transported to a military hospital. By mid-1944 Enders has mostly healed from his physical wounds except for troubled hearing in one ear. Considered unfit for duty unless he can pass a hearing test, a sympathetic female pharmacist's mate 2nd class helps Enders cheat to pass. Enders is promoted to sergeant and returns to active duty. Now a grim, taciturn combat veteran who is almost deaf in one ear, Enders receives a top priority assignment protecting Navajo code talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach). Less jaded Sergeant Ox Anderson (Christian Slater) receives a parallel assignment protecting Navajo Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie). They are told that the code can not fall into enemy hands, which means that if the codetalker is about to be captured they are to kill him, so as to ensure the Japanese can't break the code. Also in their squad are Pvt. Chick, who is equipped with a BAR, Pvt. Pappas, Pvt. Harrigan, who is armed with a flamethrower, and Pvt. Nellie (played by Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Holt and Martin Henderson).


movie Windtalkers
The Marines land at Saipan under heavy fire from the Japanese forces. Yahzee and Whitehorse receive their first taste of war with Yahzee often wincing and showing signs of disgust at all the death around him. In the battle Yahzee never opens fire on the Japanese forces.

When the Beachhead is secured, the Marines advance further into Saipan. Their convoy comes under artillery fire however and causes them to take cover. The artillery fire is then revealed to be from American guns, which are meant to be targeting Japanese positions just ahead of the road. Yahzee's radio is caught in the bombardment, disabling it, which meant that the group has no way to call off the artillery. The commander then orders them to attack the Japanese positions so as to avoid the American bombardment. In the battle Pvt Nellie is killed by the artillery when he attempts to save a wounded man. A plan is devised which involves Yahzee, disguised as a Japanese soldier, and Enders sneaking behind the Japanese lines to use their radio. The pair manages to reach the radio and Yahzee, after hesitating, kills the radioman before contacting the American artillery. He adjusts their fire so the bombardment will destroy the Japanese position. After the battle, Enders is awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of his fellow marines. However, he gives the medal to Pvt Pappas to send to Nellie's wife back home.

The group moves on to a Japanese village where the Marines make camp and Yahzee is called back to headquarters. Later the village is attacked by Japanese troops. Harrigan is killed when Enders shoots him to stop the pain when his flamethrower unit explodes, setting him alight. Anderson is decapitated defending Whitehorse, who is almost captured by the Japanese. Enders arrives seeing Whitehorse being taken away and follows his orders to protect the Navajo code, killing Whitehorse and the Japanese with a grenade.

After the Japanese forces are eliminated, Yahzee asks Enders where Whitehorse is. Enders replies that he killed him. Yahzee, who does not know about Enders' mission, attacks Enders and almost shoots him before the rest of the squad stops him.

Near the end of the battle the group is sent to check out a ridge that has been bombarded by artillery. On the way the group walks into a minefield and is then attacked by the Japanese. After fighting their way out they reach the ridge, only to discover the Japanese guns are intact. The Japanese guns then proceed to fire on an American column caught out in the open. When the squad move towards the guns the commander, Gunnery Sergeant Djelmsted (Peter Stormare), is killed by enemy fire and command of the group passes to Enders. Yahzee charges the enemy, and in contrast to the landing scene, starts killing large numbers of Japanese troops. He loses the radio which they need to call in air support to destroy the guns. As Yahzee and Enders attempt to retrieve the radio, both of them are shot but they get the radio and get into cover. They are then surrounded by the Japanese and Yahzee tries to get Enders to shoot him to protect the code but Enders refuses to shoot him and carries Yahzee to safety. Yahzee then calls in air support which destroys the Japanese guns, saving the American column. Yahzee then sees that Enders is dying and tries to save him. Enders gasps his last words to Yahzee on how he didn't want to kill Whitehorse before he dies. The film ends with Yahzee back in the United States with his wife and son on top of a rock mountain, performing a Navajo ritual to pay his respects to Enders.(here)

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