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Interview with Keith Little [July 19, 2004]

Ann Ramsey:

...on July the 19th 2004.

Unidentified Speaker:

I'm sorry, I wasn't -- I didn't -

Ann Ramsey:

Did you say you needed to fix the mic?

Unidentified Speaker:

No I'm good but I was just starting to roll.

Ann Ramsey:

I'm sorry.

Unidentified Speaker:

I don'thave to worry about it and...

Ann Ramsey:

You can fix it more. You can move more.

Unidentified Speaker:

I am rolling and go ahead.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay, here we are in Crystal, New Mexico, on July the 19th, 2004. Do we need to notify people that we are rolling or are they okay? Wait, you can't move. [low audio]

Ann Ramsey:

Do you want me to go tell them?

Unidentified Speaker:

I've done this and I'm rolling.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay.

Unidentified Speaker:

And...anytime.

Ann Ramsey:

So, in Crystal, New Mexico. This is July the 19th, 2004. My name is Ann Ramsey, I am in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Could you please just say your name and spell it please.

Keith Little:

Keith M. Little, K-E-I-T-H, initial M, L-I-T-T-L-E.

Ann Ramsey:

And can you tell us your phone number please.

Keith Little:

Area code [phone number deleted].

Ann Ramsey:

Okay.

Unidentified Speaker:

I need just one - [tone]

Unidentified Speaker:

Okay and I am rolling.

Ann Ramsey:

All right, let's just start at the beginning. Tell me where you were born and about your mother and father and sister and brothers when you were a child.

Keith Little:

I was raised in Tonalea area. That's on the western part of the Navajo reservation and north of Tuba City, Arizona. I was raised by my sister; my mom and dad had died before I got to know them. I have three sisters and one brother -- two of them passed away. And I also have -- I was raised, raising -- herding sheep, livestock, do a lot of chores and things like that.

Ann Ramsey:

So what was it like when you were a child? What did you do? Did you go to school?

Keith Little:

Well they didn't let me go to school because at that time back in the 1930s the government and the Navajo tribal police were forcing kids to go to school. And any time one of those people came around I was hidden someplace, either put over the hill or herd sheep so that they won't see me, and I wanted to go to school. So one day I ran away and went to -- caught a ride to Tuba City and went to the boarding school and tell them I wanted to go to school.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you like going to school? What did you learn?

Keith Little:

Well I was just like any-other kid without -- they were very strict about talking in your own language, Navajo, and I could not talk Navajo at school. So that kind of makes you -- forces you to learn English, you know, at whatever levels you can, the fastest way you can; and I did that. I learned a few words like, "going to the wash room," "washing up," saying "hello" and saying "good morning" and things like that. And then writing. I learned to write. You know I wanted to write very bad so it was interesting. But for many years, well it was kind of hard for me to hold that pencil [laughs] or do any reading. I had a hard time learning to read. But the school is what I wanted, and I think the reason is that he said, "Go to school, learn to be like a white man, do things like the white man." And I see white people wearing clean clothes, have a nice haircut and they always wear a white shirt or something like that and they were always in authority too. So I figured well, the essence of the thing was that the older peoples say that when you learn to talk and listen, work like a bilagaana, someday you going to be like that. So that's the way I wanted to be.

Ann Ramsey:

What's a bilagaana?

Keith Little:

White people.

Ann Ramsey:

So what were -- what would you say were the sort of values and the sort of strengths that you learned from being -- moving here and growing up this way that you did?

Keith Little:

I think that -- I don't know, I think about it sometimes, what would I have been if I didn't go to school? Maybe, fortunately, maybe I might have been a medicine man. Or maybe something else -- maybe I would have lots or children or something like that. Maybe I would be living in a [unintelligible] or something. These are the thoughts that I think about. If! didn't go to school I wonder what I would have been, but I'm glad I did because you have to work at your learning yourself, play, you had to learn to talk and listen as fast as I can, learn to read and write -these were the fundamental elements that was so useful in life.

Ann Ramsey:

What were you taught about the relationship between white people and Navajo -- I mean, was there any schooling from your family, did they teach you about the Long Walk and some of these historical events? What were you taught and what did you know?

Keith Little:

During my growing years, at home, there was talk about "huerte" [spelled phonetically] and that's a reference to where the Navajo were kept in captivity. Or "bos dorado" [spelled phonetically], the Long Walk. And I'm always curious about huerte was. They say, "That man or that woman, that old man or that middle aged man, he went to hurete. He was born over there. He came back from there," and I always wondered what it was. So one day I asked my grandpop. And he says, "What do you want to know that for? You're just a kid. You're not going to do anything with it. So why do you want to know? I don't want to have anything to do with it."

Ann Ramsey:

What happened to them on the Long Walk? What happened to the Navajos?

Keith Little:

Well they were rounded up and, first, I guess it was that New Mexico was in possession of Mexico. So there was a lot of Mexicans living around here. And the Spaniards came and upset the applecart. These people were living peacefully, getting along with each other, and they started widespread slavery, capturing Indians and making them work in mines or use them for personal labor. And a lot of Indians, but in particular the Navajos, became [unintelligible] to try to rescue their people and other people. So when the United States took possession of New Mexico nobody would listen to the Indians. They listened to the US authorities and described the Navajo raiding as war-like raiders preying on settlers and things like that. So they convinced the United States to engage in warfare.

Unidentified Speaker:

[inaudible]

Keith Little:

Of the Navajos [laughs]

Unidentified Speaker:

[inaudible]

Ann Ramsey:

Okay. So the Navajos had a hard time, they weren't treated very well on the Long Walk and they were taken away -- can you just summarize -- and then they were brought back. They were allowed to come back, right?

Keith Little:

They made their own way back. And they were given and they made tremendous recovery, but the treaty that they agreed to the had to live within that treaty condition. And some of it was to go to school, put their kids from 6 to 18 years old to be in school, but the Navajos didn't do that. They didn't want to do that because their livestocks were increasing, there's farms to be taken care of, there were a lot of things that had to be done in order to survive. And a lot of Navajos became wealthy, raised a lot of sheep, a lot of livestock, raised their own food, so that the kids were needed at home. So in the process, the government says that they were overgrazing land. And the relationship with the federal government was already on shaky ground anyway so the relationship kind of deteriorated from there until the forced reduction -- forced livestock reduction come in and that forced them to get rid of their livestock by -- they didn't have any sale for it, so a lot of it was slaughtered needlessly.

Ann Ramsey:

So you're saying in your teenage years -- in your teenage years you eventually -- you knew that there was a war going on, or did you know about it before Pearl Harbor? Did you know there was a war going on?

Keith Little:

There was talk about it. They say -- the way the Navajos describe it, it's across from the eastern shores where the foreigners came from -- that's where the war was going on. And this was some time back in 1938 or '39.

Ann Ramsey:

And what happened when Pearl Harbor -- how did you interpret what happened at Pearl Harbor? How did that affect you?

Keith Little:

Well, I was brought up kind of religiously I guess, to you know, you walk, you run, you do a lot of physical work, and in a way you get used to your land. It belongs to you, to your people and you have your relatives, your loved ones there, and when they did that you wonder about will the enemy that attacked the United States, will they land on the shores and will they capture the United States? I wonder what it will be? I wonder what we will be doing? What will my loved ones be doing, my sisters and my grandmas and my grandpas, my aunties? I wonder if they will become slaves? You know, you see these things in pictures -- picture shows sometimes, and it makes you think if these were possible what human beings were doing to each other.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you also say in your -- I think I remember you saying something about you felt as though Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack?

Keith Little:

That's the way -- it was described as -

Ann Ramsey:

Can you say that Pearl Harbor first?

Keith Little:

Well the Pearl Harbor attack on Sunday, December the 7th -- I was in school at Ganado Mission School in Ganado, Arizona. And we had gone to church that day and then had our noon meal, and then Sunday evenings they don't serve meals. They usually serve real dried up peanut butter sandwich and a fruit and maybe a boiled egg with it, and it was never enough for us. So a bunch of us would go down and cook some rabbits down in the hole, down in the watch. So we had all the meal cooking, got our sandwiches and took it down there to have a feast, then we forgot that there was no salt. So one guy had to run back to the dormitory and get some salt. A time later he came back, running real hard. He was panting and couldn't get a word out and we all looked at him, stared at him. What was the matter with the guy? And pretty soon he finally spilled out the words. He says, "You guys, the United States has been bombed," he said. And we all looked at him, "What?" The United States had been bombed. "Where?" "Pearl Harbor."

Ann Ramsey:

Okay. So you were saying that Roosevelt, can you just say his name and then about the sneak attack?

Keith Little:

When we got back to the donnitory there was radio broadcasts, and in the process President Roosevelt was making -- was talking on the radio. And he mentioned the sneak attack that the Japanese have made that Sunday morning and also the fact that this was "a day of infamy for the United States." And those are the words that I distinctly remember. I could not catch all of everything that he said but that's the phrase that he used that stuck in my mind. So there was five of us that were trying to eat dinner down in the watch and we all got together after a day or two later and we talked about the war. Some of the buddies that I was running around with that were in the group was 18 years old -- maybe one was 18, one 16, and I was a 15 year old kid at the time, and we all swore that we will join the Anny or the Navy, never heard about the United States Marine Corps at the time. So we were going to all go into the service and make an effort to go "to fight the war in the Pacific for retaliation for what Japan had done that day. So that kind of a feeling, that kind of a mental attitude kind of sticks with you -- ingrained in your mind that that's what you're going to do. So I guess that's -- I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe it's love for your country or patriotism -- you know, you think about your family and how will they be. And the kids that are growing up, how will they be? These things.

Ann Ramsey:

[inaudible] are you hearing the chair?

Unidentified Speaker:

Fortunately it's been in good places so I'll let you know if -- I've been listening for it.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay. All right, so why don't you describe how you joined and what was the reaction of your family, how did you go about getting into the military?

Keith Little:

I didn't do anything, I just wanted to enlist. But I had to wait until I was 17 years old. At the time -- right at the time of Pearl Harbor, 18-year-0lds can voluntarily enlist into the Armed Forces, and that's the way it was. After Pearl Harbor the age was dropped to 17, but they had to get permission, fill out a permission form and have your parents sign it. But the closest at that time for me was at least two years away from Pearl Harbor. And in the process, during the summer of 1942 the description of the war with Japan was terrible from the day after the attack all the way through the summer. It wasn't never good, because the American people were being defeated all over the country over there. And we worry about it. And finally during the summer my 16th birthday came around. And a lot of friends had enlisted in the Marine Corps -- why? What is the Marine Corps? Some of them wrote back to me trom boot camp and they described boot camp as tough, you know. Well, but in the meantime I had learned -- I had picked up some things -information about the Marine Corps posted in towns, in post offices, trading posts. And it said the greatest fighting men are the marines. So that is what I wanted to be. So I think that kind of convinced me that that was I shall do as my friends do, that I will join the Marine Corps.

So in May -- in March 1943, I finally reached my 18th birthday. So a couple of days after my 18th birthday I left school and enlisted into the Marine Corps in Gallup. The recruiter in the Gallup told me that there was a group leaving from Fort Defiance in a couple of days -- "go over there and catch that bus with those people that were being drafted and being hauled to Saint Johns. Go with them to Phoenix -- it's the fastest way you can get in. Otherwise I would have to send you to Santa Fe," he says. So I did that. And I had to go to the Marine Corps recruiting station in Phoenix, Arizona to get my physical, passed it, and in the process when the recruiter asked me if I was in school, I said, "Yes I'm in school." School is going to be out in a month or two, "so you go back and stay in school until May, until the school is out, and then you can come in."

Meantime my papers were already accepted. I had to get somebody the form to sign my permission, and so he shoved it into my hand and told me to get it done while I was in school at Ganado. And my home is on the western side of the reservation and this guy that I was with -- I just got acquainted with him down there in Phoenix, and he was 17 years old he said. So he had to get a permission too.

So coming back, both of us were told to come back after the school is out. All we had to do was report back to the recruiting station and you go into the Marine Corps. So, got back to Fort Defiance because that's where all the service men were going when they're on their way to Duckson [spelled phonetically] or a recruiting station -the boarding school puts them up and feeds them, stay there while they're waiting. So that was the way we did it, and this friend of mine told me we had to get these papers signed. And he says, "My mother is not going to do it and my father's not going to do it. My grandpa is going to tell me to herd sheep until I become a man and then he can go into the service. How are we going to get this thing signed?" For me there was a travel restriction, and in fact, no automobiles were running. And I didn't have any money to pay my way back to Flagstaff and catch a ride out to Navajo reservation, and so we both schemed. Somebody had to sign our paper, and he says, "There's an old man out there herding sheep, let's go over there."

So we went over there, found him, and we told him that we wanted him to thumbprint our paper for us. He says, "Okay, bring it. Where is it?" Pulled the paper out and he looked at it, "Where is the thumb print?" We had no thumbprint. We had no pad for the thumbprint. Then he says, "We didn't bring one. How are we going to get his thumb print?" Maybe even -- maybe get an ink and spread it on his finger so he can thumbprint. Then he suggested, "Go back [inaudible] there's all kinds of offices up there. Just wander around the office and somebody has got a thumbprint up there." We walked all the way back to Fort Defiance, about five miles, this was [inaudible] -- and wandered around this place, hospital and offices finally found one. Went back over there and he thumbprinted it for us with out even asking no questions.

So when he got done we said, "We're going now," and put the pad in our pocket, the papers in our pocket. We started walking off and then he says, "Hey boys, what did I do that for? What is that paper?" "Grandpa, you touched that paper so that we can go into the Armed Forces United States Marine Corps." "Is that so," he says. "Yeah." "Well," he said, "That's good. Now I want you to be a good Marine and be a good soldier," he says. We started walking off and then he says, "Come on back over here again." So we went back and he says, "Come on, closer to me," and he put one of his hands on my shoulder, this one on the other guy's shoulder, and he kind of shoved us towards him and then he says, "Boys, when you get over there I want you to kill just as many Japs as possible. Now get going," he says. So that was it. That was the way that I got into the Marine Corps, in May 1943.

Ann Ramsey:

And what was the reaction of your family when they found out? What did your sister and your family -

Keith Little:

I never told them. I didn't go home, and when I was in boot camp, about halfway through my boot camp, I wrote a letter home. About two weeks into our boot camp training my buddy got pulled out of formation one day -they took him someplace and I never saw him again.

Ann Ramsey:

Did he go home?

Keith Little:

I don't know where he went, but I ran to him in Gallup sometime in 1946 and he had enlisted into the Marine Corps the year before, and did you know he made a career out of the Marine Corps? Stayed in 30 years and he lives in Wisconsin now.

Ann Ramsey:

So talk about getting to boot camp. How did you get there? What happened when you got there?

Keith Little:

Well, I was all for going into the Marine Corps but it sure was a different story when I got there. They really humiliate you. They cuss you out. They lowered your morale anytime, but you was always running with a rifle in a position -- the way they want you to hold it. And you ran, you marched, you crawled, whatever. You never let that rifle get dirty, because if you get it dirty it's not going to work.

Ann Ramsey:

So when did you go and where did you go to boot camp?

Keith Little:

In San Diego. I got out of there in late July, then -

Ann Ramsey:

1943?

Keith Little:

1943. Just about the time I was finishing my boot camp, the drill instructor was kind of nice that day and he asked me, "Are you American Indian?" I told him, "Yes sir." "Are you a Navajo by any chance?" "Yes sir." "Well," he says, "the United States Marine Corps wants Navajos real badly." He says, "I understand they make good scouts." So all the guys -- all my platoon mates, they heard what the man said. So when we got dismissed I really got a ribbing for asking to be -- have my rear end shot out some day behind enemy lines or something like that.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you go through any kind of an adjustment when you were in the Marine Corps? I mean, this would be the first time you had ever been living around people that were not Navajo. How did that feel?

Keith Little:

Well some of them were -- I get along with them good. Some of them were lazy, some of them were outspoken, they never liked the food, they never liked what we did but they were there and they did what they were asked to do and I got along with them well. And that's where I got used to being called "chief' by the other non-Indian boys that were there.

Ann Ramsey:

This was in San Diego, you said. What was the name of the camp that you were at?

Keith Little:

They called it Marine Corps Recruit Depot. That's where the boot camp is.

Ann Ramsey:

So were you ever at Camp Elliot or Camp Pendleton?

Keith Little:

Camp Elliot was phased out when I got to the Marine Corps in 1943. Camp Pendleton is where we got -- is the main base.

Ann Ramsey:

And so that's where -- that's where this boot camp was -that was sort of reporting to Camp Pendleton, or. . .?

Keith Little:

Well when you finished -- graduate from boot camp they tell you where you're going. So I was told to go to a circle number so-and-so on the parade ground in San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. So I took my stuff over there and found it and there was a bunch of Navajos standing there waiting. A couple of them I had been to school with in Tuba City. So it was a good time to see them, make kind of happy. We got on a truck and they hauled us up to Camp Pendleton. They put us in a -- they dropped us off at a barrack, told us to report to somebody in there. There was nobody there during the day, in the afternoon -- late in the afternoon. And whoever that was keeping the house there told us to wait, just wait. Put your sea pack right there and wait until the company comes back. And about 4-5 o'clock, somewhere in there, we heard some marching coming and we stood out there and looked at the men. And they were illl Navajos. And we -of course, we wondered about, are all these people going to be scouts?

Ann Ramsey:

What did you think was going on? What were -- how were you interpreting -

Keith Little:

Well, we were just told what to do. Just follow instructions, that's all. They never told us what it was.

Ann Ramsey:

Were you all in the same unit? Was this all the same platoon?

Keith Little:

The company there -- the Navajo company was there in the signal school and they all did the same thing. And a lot of times we went out at night carrying radios and we would practice our message sending, things like that. Sometimes somebody else would come around, a nonIndian would come around, and try to train us in radio maintenance, things like that.

Ann Ramsey:

This was all at Camp Pendleton? Did you learn other -did you learn Morse code and things like that too? Did you learn Morse code as well?

Keith Little:

Who?

Ann Ramsey:

Did you learn Morse code also?

Keith Little:

No. It wasn't used then. I mean, it had been phased out because everything was in Navajo code.

Ann Ramsey:

So how did you find out about sort of the origins of the code? When did you find out about how this had all been developed and what it was for?

Keith Little:

1968, 1969. One of the things that they tell you is kept...don't say anything about what we're doing, not to anybody, not even to your girlfriend. Don't speak what we are doing into her ear.

Ann Ramsey:

So give me some examples of how the code worked, some of the words that -- you know, the animal words for military equipment, things like that.

Keith Little:

Well some of the words were -- I think all the military units were clans. The Navajo clans were used for military units and one of them was [Navajo word] -- I think it was a squad. They call it [Navajo word] the pea [?]. And then a platoon was called another, [Navajo word] or something -- deer spring. And then there was one edge water, [Navajo word], for regiment I think it was. I'm not too fluent on that anymore, but these were -- this is only an example. Then they had military weapons. Say Navy; a Navy serviceman was called white cap -- [Navajo word]. And then the ships -- you got battleships -- a big fish, a submarine as iron fish, then they have names for Destroyers, mosquito boats, cruisers -- everything that pertained to sea life. So I guess they were all kinds of fish.

Ann Ramsey:

So was this hard for you to learn and did people -- were there people who didn't succeed that failed?

Keith Little:

Quite a few Navajos couldn't make it. They got phased out and transferred to another unit, probably given another job.

Ann Ramsey:

Why do you think -- how did you succeed? How did you do it?

Keith Little:

That's a question that I ask myself, how did I do it? But I did memorize it. I did a lot of -- you don't have reference when you are in the building and away from the school. Everything is done at the school except out on the field probably you can -

Ann Ramsey:

[laughs]

Unidentified Speaker:

And I am back anytime and we have about 6 minutes left on this tape. [break in audio]

Ann Ramsey:

Okay, we were talking about how did you succeed and you said you memorized everything.

Keith Little:

That's the only way, you memorize it and you write it down. And you keep that in your mind because you're going to be -- there's about over four hundred words I think it is, by the time -- the initial group made about 211 military words and about 26 military letters -- I think they came out with 46, 46 alphabets, words for alphabets. So all these things, everyone of them they have a Navajo word of some kind.

Ann Ramsey:

And you found out afterwards that there were several hundred of you, is that correct?

Keith Little:

There was about 400. I guess they were -- I don't know how many there were at the time, but when I came through I wasn't worried about how many Navajos were there. But after the war, it is said there was about 420 qualified Navajo code talkers.

Ann Ramsey:

So, how did they let you know that they felt that you were ready to go over to the Pacific? How did you find out that you were going to go?

Keith Little:

Well I didn't decide that. The instructors are the ones that decided. They time you for -- I guess to build up your preciseness and you don't make mistakes... So when you're ready and when they determined that you're ready you go. If they can't make you do that then they pull them back out, wash them out.

Ann Ramsey:

And how fast were you able to transmit messages?

Keith Little:

I don'tknow, I don't count minutes, but when they sitting up there saying words and I'm writing it over here and sometimes -- most of the times when you really good you can get a 100% all the time. And when you're sending messages in the field and they determine how well you do out there also.

Ann Ramsey:

This was faster, though, than other methods?

Keith Little:

It is a whole lot faster. The ordinary, the conventional military code in comparison, the Navajo code always beats them, and you know if you match the two together, for the simple reason that conventional code has to be changed, updated, maybe a day, two days, maybe a week, scramble words and numbers and [phone rings] -- I guess my granddaughter is going to get that.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay, well we'll just wait for that to finish. Okay start over, the conventional code....

Keith Little:

The conventional code uses scrambled numbers and letters and it is scrambled -- an ordinary message is written on a pad or a paper and given to an expert to scramble, code it. Say encoded. So when he's done he gives it to the radio operator and the radio operator sends it, and it is written down on the other end the way it is sent. And from there it goes to another expert and he unscrambles it. So there's time lost.

Ann Ramsey:

That might take hours.

Keith Little:

It could, yes.

Ann Ramsey:

Can you just say. ..

Keith Little:

And the Navajo, if a Navajo code talker is really fluent with his code system he is given a message, it's sent, he looks at it, calls the receiver on the other side, "Here's a message," and the receiver will say, "Go ahead and send it," or something like that. They have a system of authorizing things you know. The way they do. And so he starts talking and he looks at the words and he encodes them as he is talking and the guy over there is decoding it as he's saying it. Ifhe wants to -- ifhe misses a word someplace, ifthinks he didn't get it -- one word -- and wants to get it down right so he calls the sender back and say, "Read the word after this, not all the message, just one," and it's done and then it's acknowledged and then the receiver and the operator sends it to the hand of a runner and goes to the receiver, the final receiver for whatever needs to be done. They called it execution -expediting or execution or something like that. Maybe it comes through a minute or two minutes. Ordinary messages are never more than three minutes, and when you're doing that you're saving lives.

Ann Ramsey:

So can I just have you say this is a...

Unidentified Speaker:

[inaudible] [tone]

Unidentified Speaker:

We are back and we are rolling.

Ann Ramsey:

So anyway we were talking about the code, and could I just have you say in one phrase that the Navajo code is a matter or minutes compared to the old method, which was a matter of hours, something along -- just can you summarize it in that way for me?

Keith Little:

I've never really made any comparison but it consumes a lot of time, the conventional code, and even as much as hours depending on the length, whereas the Navajo code, there is very minimum delays. The only time that might be delays when the message is written and walking with it to the radio operator, and as soon as he starts sending it, it takes a little bit time sending it. It takes a little bit time -the receiver, there is no time. The only thing is ifhe gets it right the first time he's done with it and the guy has to walk it to his destination or something. So there's never more than two minutes delay of all messages.

Ann Ramsey:

So where did they send you first when you went to the Pacific?

Keith Little:

One day in December I was told to pack up my gear, a bunch of us were called out. Then got in a truck. We wondered where we were going, but it was just, over the hill from communication school, that's where 4th Marine Division was. And I got into -- there was two of us. I got into the Headquarters Company, 1 st Battalion, 24th Marines in the 4th Marine Division. And the 4th Marine division, without knowing about it we were shipped overseas in January, went on January the 8th, until we got to Pearl Harbor about 3 or 4 days later. We never knew where we were going but we got to the harbor, a day or two later we pulled out -- our ship pulled out and a day or two later we were told where we were going, a place called Kwajalein Atolls in the Marshall Islands. And in the Atolls there was two islands: one of them was called Roy and the other was called Namor [spelled phonetically]. That's where I say my first battle. Initiation, I guess you call it.

Ann Ramsey:

What happened?

Keith Little:

I was assigned -- my first duty was being assigned to battalion commander. A guy -- an old man from Texas, I was his personal radio man. And in other words, wherever he is I have to follow him around. And he was a crazy man. When we hit the beach on Namor there was a pile of brush piled all along the shore and he said, "There's a Jap in there! There's a Jap in there!" He takes his .45 out and wham, wham, wham. There was nothing in there, but he says, "There's a Jap in there!" So after a while we gave up, but then we went running on to the beach. And about four -- maybe later in the day, in the evening, I was relieved, came back and the CP and the other guy went. The next morning that man was killed, the commander. I don't know what he was doing, but did you know that he received the Medal of Honor? I don't know what he did. He was a goofy guy. He was a natural leader also, but -- there was my first initiation.

Ann Ramsey:

So did you -- how long did this battle go on -

Keith Little:

Two days.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you see any injuries or casualties on either side? Did you see people go down? What happened at the battle?

Keith Little:

Well, most of the time I was at the CP and if the commander wanted to run out to the front line I had to run after him. And sometimes we see a movement. These Japs, they're really sneaky guys. I did not really see a solder running at us or running away from us, they're always moving one way or another. And the only ones that I really seen were the dead ones.

Ann Ramsey:

What did you think when a saw a dead Japanese person?

Keith Little:

Feel sorry for the guys. I don't know why. It wasn't their fault -- after the invasion and after I enlisted and after, what in the heck people have to fight a war for? And it is the leaders of the countries that promotes war. So as a common man, a citizen of your country you had to do your duty. So I guess I feel sorry for myself and I feel sorry for the guys that were killed, the enemy. I shouldn't be that way, but it is that way.

Ann Ramsey:

Were you afraid? Did you experience fear for your own life? Were you afraid for your own life?

Keith Little:

Yes, I was always afraid, but the thing about it is that a radioman is always a marked person by the enemy. So if they see a radioman they want to shoot him. So you're going and somebody tells you that there's a safe place there so you run in there. And when you're ready to go again somebody beats you on the shoulder or something and you take off again. So in a way you get seasoned up to where is a safe place, but when you first get into the battle you kind of -- there's that bewilderedness, you know. "What is the safe thing to do?" or "Will I get shot doing something" -- something may come from the air and shoot you to pieces. These are constant reminders, but you lose that kind of -- you lose that attitude simply because you're trying to save yourself. You know, you're always kind oflooking out for the next spot to go.

Ann Ramsey:

So .do you ever feel like you took any risks or did anything dangerous, especially dangerous more than others, or was it just the fact that you were the radioman that put you in danger?

Keith Little:

Well if you had to do it you had to do it. But the commander, usually the commander, they always watch for the radio man. And they don't send him into risky places unless you want to go, I guess. And then -- you're an important man. You're a radioman, so you've got to do your work rather than become a hero.

Ann Ramsey:

So where was the next place you went after the Marshal Islands?

Keith Little:

Came back to Maui and in about June or maybe the last ,part of May we shipped out again, went back to Pearl Harbor, did the same thing a few days, ship out, and then on a way somewhere a few days later we found out we were going to a place called Saipan, I'd never heard of that before, in the Mariana Islands. So on July the 15th, I think it was, we landed in 1944 -- we landed on Saipan. And we stayed there about three weeks, and I saw all kinds of things there.

Ann Ramsey:

Like what?

Keith Little:

You know this is the first time I saw some natives there. I don't know what they were, but they were there. They came through -- they come through the line and some of them I guess didn't know what to do and they committed suicide. The women, you know, they killed their children and then they killed themselves. Or jump off -- throw their kids over the cliff and then jump off after them.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you know why it was so important to take Saipan?

Keith Little:

There was an air field there to begin with. I think it had - what do you say -- strategic location, for some reason. And it had to be taken because Tinian, the next island to take in August of 1944, was a flat land. And I think that was an ideal place for a big air field, and that's where the B29s. When we invaded Tinian in early August, we spent about a week or two around there. When we were leaving they were already building the air field. Later on, we learned that the B29s, the big planes, the big bombers they was flying from there to Japan, round trip of eight hours I think they said. That's a long time to be in the air. And a lot of them were being shot down, and I guess that was the next thing to do was to get over Iwo Jima because there was also an air field and a lot of these planes would, plane crews would survive, the ones that were coming in from -- flying from Tinian to Japan and back.

Ann Ramsey:

Let's go back for a second to Saipan. That was a pretty vicious battle. What do you remember seeing in Saipan?

Keith Little:

Well, I've seen some banzai attack one morning.

Ann Ramsey:

Describe what that is. What is a bonsai attack? How does that work?

Keith Little:

I don't know why they do it, but they do it. I heard about it long before I went overseas -- bonsai attack. It's Japanese soldiers, they banned together or as a unit, make an attack against Marine Corps positions. Sometimes they overrun it, sometimes they don't, sometimes all of them get killed. Most of the time all of them get killed. So I think they're sacrificing themselves for the emperor or something like that.

Ann Ramsey:

It's like a suicide mission.

Keith Little:

Mmm-hmm. So, when you serve as a regular radio man sometimes you're not really -- especially on the front line, you don't get the secret messages, just ordinary radio communication from the commanding officer or something like that unless the commander tells you to send a message, confidential message. Then the Navajo code talker is used.

Ann Ramsey:

So did you send some confidential messages in Saipan?

Keith Little:

From the CP?

Ann Ramsey:

From the -- can you say command post?

Keith Little:

Command post.. .no.

Ann Ramsey:

So that must have been pretty frightening to be in Saipan in the middle of all that fighting. Were there airplanes coming overhead?

Keith Little:

Well, by the time I got there the Navy had sunk a lot of Japanese carriers, so they were not very prevalent. Once in a while one comes through the curtain and strafes or bombs or something like that. But not all as a unit. You know, when the Japanese planes get into the air the Navy is ready to shoot them down, you know, with their planes. Or with the ships, you know, where they're going. So they really did not have a chance to get through the defense. But it's scary though when you see planes coming down bombing or when you hear shells coming down, come zooming over and they have some other shells that make a lot of noise -- slow going shells that you can hear it coming maybe miles away and you wonder where it's going to land. So the only thing you can do is get in the hole somewhere.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you have any close calls do you feel like?

Keith Little:

Well, quite a few of them. When it's all said and done you wonder -- it makes you wonder, "Why didn't they land in my hole?" or something like that -- or in my crate or. He missed. You survive again so, but yet the sad part of it is somebody else always gets killed, something like that.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay so let's talk about Iwo Jima. Did you go back to Pearl Harbor and then out again?

Keith Little:

To Maui and back, to Pearl Harbor, and one day there just -- in January or in February I think it was -

Ann Ramsey:

This is 1945?

Keith Little:

Mmm-hmm. The same way, after we -- after a few days out of Pearl Harbor they let us know where we're going and it was Iwo Jima. And all the talks that we received and all the information that we got it, they told us we should secure that island in one week. So that was the intention that we had. And on the way to Iwo Jima you take a look at the convoy that you are in -- you get on top deck and you see ships, ships, ships, all the way to the horizon, maybe over. And there's troop ships in formation and then there's the protective ships, they're spread all around, and you know the [unintelligible] running around back and forth, and carriers, you can see them on the horizon. So you come to think about how in the world can Japan lose a war with all this thing for the killing?

Ann Ramsey:

These were all the enemy? This was all the Japanese?

Keith Little:

No these were ours. We're in a convoy.

Ann Ramsey:

So you're saying how could they survive the onslaught?

Keith Little:

It makes you wonder. All the shooting that these ships will do, how can anybody survive, even -- on Saipan, you know, a few times a plane comes by, a few times we were shelled by heavy guns, but it scared the dickens out of us you know. But people to take a pounding -- so you think about these things.

Ann Ramsey:

Why did it take the Americans so long to take Iwo Jima?

Keith Little:

Iwo Jima was defended in such a way that there was a tunnel system, there was gun emplacements, there was all kinds of emplacements. And the tactics of the commander had changed -- they did away with the bonsai attack. I think somewhere in a book I read about his strategy, that it was a waste of men to make a bonsai attack when you know you're going to be overwhelmed. So the thing to do is kill as many of the Marines or the Allied Forces as possible. Stay in your defensive location and then when you see a marine, shoot him. .

Keith Little:

So I think that was a very tactical strategy that the commander used. He had been on this several months prior to Iwo Jima invasion and he developed that system. Maybe long before because there was long -- there was tunnels so long that they can use to go out back and forth and then once in while they have a gun emplacement ( where the guns are strategically placed to cover certain areas. [low audio]

Keith Little:

Close the door. [low audio]

Ann Ramsey:

Okay so the guns are strategically placed, and where were you when you got to -- what happened when you got to Iwo Jima?

Keith Little:

Well, we got there on February the 19th and it was cold that day. We never experienced -- we experienced a lot of rough seas after we got to the landing boat from the troop ships. And you go to what they call the "line of departure" and -- and you see planes being shot down, carrier planes. And for me, I had never seen our planes shot down. Neither have I seen enemy plane being shot down. The one that we got on that took a few runs at -- on Saipan came real close to the ground, zoomed up and everybody was shooting at him. He went through all that and he went away.

Keith Little:

So here is our planes and it's being shot down from the ground, you know, trom Iwo Jima. There's no enemy planes. So the guy that was with me -- sitting next to me on the landing boat, he says, "God," he says, "lwo lima must be a hell of a place." Then he shoves me and says, "I hope you make it." Then I, in return, say, "I hope you make it." And he says, "I hope we both make it." So those are the kinds of feelings.

Ann Ramsey:

I'm sorry did you just say, "Amphibious tractor" and repeat that?

Keith Little:

Amphibious landing craft, it's got a track. It can travel on land and sea. So it crawls over the -- gets out of the beach and go in land a ways and then you unload. We came in on that kind, but it could not get off the beach. It got buried in the sand, so he had to back up and get out of the sand, let us out and we can run up. So there you see a mess on the shore already when we came in at 10:30 in the mornmg, m a reserve wave.

Ann Ramsey:

Were you still with the 4th Marines?

Keith Little:

I was with the 24th Marines. So this tells you that there's something wrong with Japan -- I mean Iwo Jima. When we got in and land we got pinned down -- for two days we were pinned down. We see -- we don't know where they're shooting from but we know they're coming from the direction so that area in there was blasted by the fighter planes, by the bombers, by ships. When we start to move again there they come. We don't see them, so the only way -- the only way to overcome these resistance was to make a frontal attack, take a chance and run like the dickens, hopefully you don't get killed. You don't get shot or something. So that's the reason for high casualty on Iwo Jima.

Ann Ramsey:

So you ran, all of you just ran? What happened?

Keith Little:

What we did was there was a man that came around that says, "We'll try tonight after midnight, no moon." So he got several guys together and somewhere they started out and somebody shot a flare in the air is what they did so they can be seen, but they just hugged the ground. And once that flare died down they took off and went into another direction and they got up to the base of the hill where -- which is a rock quarry. And the gun from above them could not shoot at them so they got them out that way. Finally, after two days.

Ann Ramsey:

So did you send any messages on Iwo Jima?

Keith Little:

Yes. I was with I st Battalion, 24th Marines and when I'm at the CP I usually get a message to send sometime -Navajo, otherwise some of it is as I am instructed to use regular language, ordinary language to get the message. But if they want to code then they have to code it.

Ann Ramsey:

What do you suppose the Japanese thought - [low audio] [tone] [low audio]

Ann Ramsey:

So the messages that you had sent on Iwo Jima, were they to identify where the Japanese guns were, that kind of thing?

Keith Little:

Yes. The position that we wanted to be shelled, or bombed, or strafed or whatever, or moving troops around- moving from a unit, one area to another, these kind of messages -- they were coded because we knew that -- I guess that it is known that the Japanese are listening all the time. And-

Ann Ramsey:

What do you suppose they thought of the code they would hear? What did they think?

Keith Little:

Well I think they tried to find somebody that would probably understand some of it, but I don't think no Japanese spoke Navajo or understand it, on Iwo Jima anyway.

Ann Ramsey:

So how did the -- the battle ended and there's a famous story about the message about Mount Suribachi. Can you relay a little of that?

Keith Little:

Well I was over on across the island, opposite of where the 5th Marine Division was. I know nothing about raising the flag on Iwo Jima until we moved out after -- I think it was after the 26th of March I got a little brief newsletter about a flag had been raised and there was a famous picture of the flag raising. That's the first time I learned about it. And a lot of people claimed that the battle stopped, everything got quiet -- well that's a foolish story to me because a lot of us were pinned down or being shot at or were busy at what we were doing and never had time ,to pay attention to somebody else.

Ann Ramsey:

What do you think about the fact that Ira Hayes was there, Ira Hayes got recognition for there?

Keith Little:

Well, just by accident I guess. It's like all Indians, you know, somebody tells them what to do so he got to be one of them. He was the last man in the row and it looks like he just flat let go of the flag because he was still grappling his arm up there. And it was good that he was a part of it, so that shows that the American Indians did their share of what had to be done.

Ann Ramsey:

Can you say his name for me please? Can I just have you say his name?

Keith Little:

Ira Hayes.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you know him?

Keith Little:

No. A lot of people say they knew Ira Hayes after he became famous.

Ann Ramsey:

So how did you end up at the end of the battle? Where were you when everything came to its final end?

Keith Little:

We got up onto the shore from the rock quarry and we just stayed there for orders and it never came. And then finally, if there -- they were still fighting someplace and they thought that we might be needed so we stayed there. And one day the orders came to go back to the landing area, so we walked down there -- marched down there. So when we got down there, you get a chance to look at who survived in the units -- you know, in the battalions because you had a lot of friends in the battalion. So you go among them and you greet them and you cry with each other or something like that, you know.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you lose some good friends?

Keith Little:

Yes. A lot of good friends that were in my unit and two Navajos -- they were riflemen. They were both gone on Iwo Jima. Both of them -- I looked for their grave -- they say a lot of them had their bodies brought back to punchbowl in Hawaii. I looked for them there and they were not there.

Ann Ramsey:

So you never found your friends?

Keith Little:

Mmm-mmm [negative].

Ann Ramsey:

What were their names?

Keith Little:

One of them was Earnest King. The other one was Claw Beowe [spelled phonetically].

Ann Ramsey:

Did you ever do anything to remember them?

Keith Little:

No, I just remembered them. I just remembered them. The only thing I knew about them, I think, was Earnest King was the one that we were on liberty in Hawaii on the way to Iwo Jima. I met him there and we had a little drink together and then parted. It was the last time I saw him.

Ann Ramsey:

What about the guy that you were on the boat with that you both said, "I hope you make it. I hope you make it"? Did he make it?

Keith Little:

He made it.

Ann Ramsey:

Your friend.

Keith Little:

Otherwise I would remember him, but he's in Tennessee some place. Once in a while he drops a card and I do the same thing.

Ann Ramsey:

What was his name?

Keith Little:

Danny -- Danny -- Danny -- Danny -- he's got a crazy-Polaski [spelled phonetically] or something like that. Polunski [spelled phonetically] or something like that.

Ann Ramsey:

So then did you go -- were you sent to Japan at any point? Did they send you to Japan?

Keith Little:

We were in Maui when it was all over.

Ann Ramsey:

So you were there when the bombs were dropped, the atom bomb?

Keith Little:

We were at Maui.

Ann Ramsey:

What did you think about the atom bomb?

Keith Little:

Well, we were kind of bewildered. We hoped that kind of bomb don't come to the United States, but the United States made it and sometimes we chat about it and wonder what the result of it is going to be for the world if people like Japan and German leaders, other crazy leaders get ahold of how it is done. Sometimes you think about these things and I don't know why we thought about it, but we talk about it. Not all -- not with all Navajos, just you know, kind of make discussion.

Ann Ramsey:

So you learned that the war was over and that the code was successful. How did your homecoming take place?

Keith Little:

First we did not know the impact the Navajo code had made on the system, but it was heavily relied on towards the last of the war. And coming home, it was bleak. I came into San Diego in October and there were a lot of people on the shore -- on the dock, and there was a bunch of ladies there greeting each serviceman as he comes off. A lot of us, I guess, cried, glad to be home. Some of us even kneeled down and touched the earth.

Ann Ramsey:

So you were very glad to be home?

Keith Little:

Yeah, but there was nobody from horne, nobody ITom my reservation down there. At that time, communication -we had no communication on the reservation.

Ann Ramsey:

So how did you get reunited with your family?

Keith Little:

I got discharged and a month later, after about -- a little over a month later after I returned I carne home. And I guess you're supposed to go through certain ceremonies. I didn't do it. [laughs]

Ann Ramsey:

Why not?

Keith Little:

When you've been converted from your own religion a time or two then you don't observe the ceremonial observation because you don't understand it. But it comes back to you though, later on.

Ann Ramsey:

In what way?

Keith Little:

The Navajo religion, the Navajo language is -- was given to us by the Almighty, the holy people. And this is the place of our emergence into this world. And your people live here, your loved ones live here, yo1,lf land is here and no matter where you go you're always going to corne back to the Navajo land. .

Ann Ramsey:

So did you retire from the military right away or did you stay in the military?

Keith Little:

I got out right away, the -- November 27th, 1945.

Ann Ramsey:

You retired as what rank? As a private or...? [phone ringing]

Ann Ramsey:

Private first class. [phone ringing]

Ann Ramsey:

So -- say again the rank.

Keith Little:

Can I make another remark?

Ann Ramsey:

Yes, go ahead.

Keith Little:

None of us -- none of the Navajos have ever been recognized for their efforts for their contributions, no matter how hard -- how faithful you are in the unit, nobody recognizes in you in rank, promotion, or recognition of any kind. I think the reason is that you're supposed to -- nobody is supposed to know about the Navajo code at all.

Ann Ramsey:

So all of you were the same rank? You were all -- say it agam.

Keith Little:

However we got into the communication school with the rank that we got, most all of us stayed with it all the way.

Ann Ramsey:

The private first class?

Keith Little:

Private first class or private. Hardly anybody got beyond that.

Ann Ramsey:

So no one got any medals at that time?

Keith Little:

Mmm-hmm.

Ann Ramsey:

How long did it take for the code talkers to be recognized, and it was related to the secrecy of the language, correct?

Keith Little:

I think it was 1969 or 1968, 4th Marine Division - [low audio]

Keith Little:

The 4th Marine Division decided to honor their Navajo code talkers. So they asked all the Navajo Code Talkers, as many as possible, to come to a 4th Marine Division reunion in Chicago. And -- we not enough of us got together so all Navajo code talkers at the Marine Corps were asked to attend, and they provided a plane I heard. About that time I got sent out of the country so I did not attend, but the guys came back with a great big medallion, a gold medallion or a copper medallion that had 4th Marine Division and Ira Hayes riding a horse on the back. And later on, all the Navajo code talkers as possible got together in Wind Rock and we got our medallion there. So we treasure those medallions to this day.

Ann Ramsey:

Is that the one that you're wearing?

Keith Little:

Mmm-hmm.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay, we didn't talk about your wife and family. When did you meet your wife? When did you marry?

Keith Little:

We met in 1974 I believe it was. And we just knew each other for a quite awhile until about 1979 or 1980 we got married -- I mean we got a marriage license. No we don't have any kids. She already had kids and those are my adopted kids. My two with the other woman, they died.

Ann Ramsey:

You had a wife who died?

Keith Little:

Yeah.

Ann Ramsey:

When were you married and when did she die?

Keith Little:

I think she died in 1996 or something. And the boys died -- one of them, a car accident, and the other one died recently of ill health. And with the last one -- I have grandkids on that side, three girls, three ladies now. And they're living in Colorado Springs. One of them is in the Air Force and she, I think, is in Kuwait and Arabia.

Ann Ramsey:

So and what did -- did you pursue anything when you came back -- or you went back -- you came back to your land where you had been before. Did you pursue any education or anything else?

Keith Little:

No, I didn't. I went -- I wandered around for a while, did odd jobs, then I went back to school and graduated from high school in Sholaka [spelled phonetically], Oklahoma, in 1947.

Ann Ramsey:

So when did you come back to New Mexico?

Keith Little:

After I graduated from high school, then went to work at different kind of jobs, employment, searching around for something better to do. And I finally went back to school, got a job as a -- lets see I went to school and got a job as a teacher at the Inter-Mountain Indian School in Utah. The Navajo nation, at the time, they were having a crafts program of educating all their young kids, from 6 all the way through to 21 I think it was. And many of them were teenagers, young adults. And I had a class of the young adults in Brigham City, Utah at the Inter-Mountain Indian School, teaching them to talk English and write English, teaching them words and things like that.

Ann Ramsey:

Just like you were taught. Did you enjoy teaching?

Keith Little:

Probably, yes. But when the program was phasing out I just didn't want to be in the classrooms so I got out of there and became a logger for the Navajo Nation.

Ann Ramsey:

So you were a logger. Anything else?

Keith Little:

I was a logger and I was what you call a CEO. I got a position as a logging manager and also did a lot of work for Indian timbers, Indian tribes that have timber, and I became the president of the organization. They call it National Indian Timber Council. And became a member of the board of directors. At one time I was there four years as the president, and I served on the board 16 years. That's why I was in Washington, DC a lot.

Ann Ramsey:

And the Code Talkers Association came about in the early '70s?

Keith Little:

I think it was '70, 1969 or 1970.

Ann Ramsey:

And what role did -- did you have a role in it right away or. .. ?

Keith Little:

No, I did not have a role in it for a while, and then all of a sudden we needed some money for the promotion works that we were doing so I was elected as treasurer. I got elected one time, and still at it today.

Ann Ramsey:

Can I just have you say the name ofthe organization?

Keith Little:

Navajo Code Talker Association.

Ann Ramsey:

And you're very active in it now?

Keith Little:

Always been.

Ann Ramsey:

What kinds of things are you doing?

Keith Little:

Well, try to promote -- you know, trying to tell the public what the code was, what it really is, what it really done. And right at the height of it the war ended, which is okay. And I think that eventually it would have probably become a conventional communication for military. But they also phased out -- they also declassified the code. So anybody can grab it now.

Ann Ramsey:

What did you -- there was some other recognitions of you. For example, President Bush and the Silver Congressional Medal. Do you have any stories about that?

Keith Little:

I think it was July the 27th, 2001. These people, the surviving members of the original 29 that were recruited for the pilot project of the Navajo code, were recognized by the President in Washington, DC. And the President made a remark that they -- in the gratitude of doing very, very, very difficult work for developing the code they were being recognized, and that they will be remembered for a long time.

Ann Ramsey:

Why do you think that so many American Indians have joined the American military over the past 200 years? Why have so many American Indians joined the military? Do you have any idea? Insight?

Keith Little:

Probably -- what do you call it? Economy. You know, you want to do something, you want to learn something, and a lot of times you pick up a profession there,.a vocation, something to do. You learn something there, and you get an education out of it also. I think that's the reason, because we don't have the funds to go to school. And if there is funds available it's hard to get. So a lot of us have made use of our benefits also.

Ann Ramsey:

Can I ask you about, did you use any of the VA or GI Bill benefits?

Keith Little:

I did, yes. To go to school, when I was teaching in Utah - used that to go to school to take the classes at night and during the weekends, things like that.

Ann Ramsey:

You used the...?

Keith Little:

Used my benefit -- educational benefit.

Ann Ramsey:

Any other benefits that you used? Medical care or...?

Keith Little:

Not now, but I'm going to apply for it sometime.

Ann Ramsey:

Going to apply for...?

Keith Little:

What they call benefits, veteran's benefits?

Ann Ramsey:

Do you mean the health -

Keith Little:

Maybe -- some kind of a benefit program, you know? I think there's some in the offing -- not all, but you've got to meet certain condition.

Ann Ramsey:

Did you have any injuries when you were in service?

Keith Little:

No, I don't have an injury.

Ann Ramsey:

So were you pleased that you were able to use the educational benefit? That worked out well for you?

Keith Little:

It worked out real good for us. I went to college on it. So at least I improved my ability, anyway.

Ann Ramsey:

What should the next generation of American children know about Navajo and about the Navajo code talkers? What should children coming up know?

Keith Little:

I think we are making the effort that the young people don't really know about their heritage, and that's what we're working on. We are the people that use the Navajo language to make contribution to the war efforts for the freedom of our nation. And many people take it for -what we have, you know, the freedom, many people take it for granted. It's there, but what it takes is sacrifice of somebody in order to make it -- to enjoy the things that we have.

Ann Ramsey:

What did you think of the World War II memorial?

Keith Little:

I think it was great. It is great. It is great.

Ann Ramsey:

The. . .? Can you say the World War II memorial?

Keith Little:

The World War II veterans have never had a memorial. Tthe states have theirs, they do. And I think it was -- I think it is one of the greatest memorial for the simple reason that those of us that participated in World War II fought in a declared war, a national emergency here in the United States, also all over the world.

Ann Ramsey:

What does the American flag mean to you?

Keith Little:

I think it's a good identification of our country. And as such, you respect a flag of the United States and of our own Navajo nation and of the states.

Ann Ramsey:

What do you think of when you think of the Marines? Are you proud to have been a Marine?

Keith Little:

More than proud I guess. I have a real feeling that I was able to be a marine, and not knowing what I was going to do. All I was going to do was maybe carry a rifle or a machine gun and shoot, but I ended up not using my weapon. But my weapon was my language, and that language probably saved countless lives.

Ann Ramsey:

How do you think that we should remember -- we as Americans, should remember American Indian veterans?

Keith Little:

Indians are American first. And they say that we live in harmony with the Mother Earth because it's a provider for all mankind and we should exist that way. The belief is that way, that we respect what is given to us, provided for us by the Great Spirits and the universe, the Father Sky.

Ann Ramsey:

So you think that veterans -- American Indian veterans should be well remembered?

Keith Little:

It is that way, It is that way with all Indian tribes, that the warriors, when he return from a campaign he is respected. And I think this should be with all Americans. I think we should teach our kids that way, that these people made sacrifices so we can be free.

Ann Ramsey:

What things do you do -- it's my last question. [low audio]

Ann Ramsey:

Okay my last question, what things do you do in your life now that give you peace? What kinds of activities give you peace?

Keith Little:

Well, just having my family, working my land, raising livestock and getting myself involved in my community activities and making -- trying to promote Navajo code talkers, what they did. You know, it's a great project but it's a good thing because Native Americans are hardly every recognized for anything. I think Navajo code talkers have done something great that we have not recognized yet, and our weakness is our own -- we what to describe it in such a way that it will make some sense.

Ann Ramsey:

Did I forget anything? Was there anything that you would have liked to say?

Keith Little:

Well, I'll just that I'm glad that I live in America.

Ann Ramsey:

You also said something in your speech about - [low audio]

Ann Ramsey:

Okay. Just something about people may not understand the Navajo life, living the simple life -

Keith Little:

Oh yes. The economy of the Navajo is that -- they always say that the non-Indians always say we live in poverty, they live in disease, no running water, they live in [unintelligible] with no windows. Okay, suppose it's your way of life. They don't live in poverty, that's their way of life. They raise livestock, they raise food, they don't have to run to the store except when necessary, and that's our way of life.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay.

Unidentified Speaker:

Oh man, we just made it.

Ann Ramsey:

Okay, we got it.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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