(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) — Of all the untold stories from World
War II that have recently come to light, none is more important
or more poignant than that of the Code Talkers — some 400
Navajo youths, many boys really — who were recruited by
the U.S. government to devise an unbreakable code in the
language they had been forbidden to speak. TRUE WHISPERS
explores the complex story of the Code Talkers from the
Indian point of view and reveals the pivotal role they played
in helping the U.S. Military forces in the Pacific Theater
during World War II. Shot on location on the Navajo Reservation
in remote parts of Arizona and New Mexico as well as in
Washington D.C., and San Francisco, the film is written,
produced and directed by Valerie Red-Horse and produced
by Gale Anne Hurd in association with the Independent Television
From 1942 to 1945, Native American men, many in their early
teens, were recruited from the harsh government boarding
schools into the Marines to devise a code in their native
language to aid the United States in battling the Japanese.
Military leaders were desperate to secure an unbreakable
code to aid the U.S. war efforts in the Pacific. No cryptography
system proved effective until the Navajo Code Talkers placed
their language in service to the U.S. government.
During the bloody, heated battles of World War II, the
Japanese deciphered every communication utilized by the
U.S. military prior to the Navajo Code. At the time of their
recruitment, many of the young Navajo boys were enrolled
— often against their will — in harsh government and mission
boarding schools. At the schools, use of the Navajo language
and practice of traditions and customs were strictly forbidden.
For the Navajos, coming from a heritage of raising crops,
herding sheep, and honoring the land, these prohibitions
were often brutal and always difficult. At night, children
found places to hide and whisper Navajo secret messages,
determined to remember and preserve their heritage.
It was with no small irony, then, that the Navajo suddenly
found themselves hotly pursued to craft a code from their
native tongue by the very government that had forbidden
them to speak it. Wanting to escape the severe conditions
of the boarding schools, many of the young Navajos were
eager to join the military and fight.
Because most Navajos were born in hogans, no birth certificates
existed and most did not know their exact age. The parents,
speaking only Navajo, were reduced to putting their thumbprints
on the parental consent forms. Some of the boys were 12
or 13, but government recruiters entered their ages as 18
so they could enlist.
The young Navajo Marines devised a code using their language
for the 26 letters of the English language alphabet and
other key military terminology. The U.S. Marines believed
this code would baffle the Japanese, since Navajo was not
a written language and less than a hundred thousand people
spoke it, most located on the Navajo reservation. In the
first group of Navajos, 29 men developed 211 codes. They
were shipped overseas in September 1942. Subsequent groups
of Navajos made additions and improvements to the code that
became the standard in U.S. Marine Corps Communication.
The Code Talkers were shipped to numerous battlefields
throughout the South Pacific, using their language to transmit
vital messages in the midst of combat. The fiercest, bloodiest
and most instrumental battle occurred on the tiny island
of Iwo Jima, strategically located in the Pacific. Eighty-thousand
U.S. Marines started their landings on February 19, 1945.
The difficult struggle for possession of the island took
36 days, with the Code Talkers active on the front lines.
One in three of the Marines that landed were either killed
TRUE WHISPERS also explores the spiritual / faith phenomenon
of the Navajo. Of the 400 plus who fought in the front lines
of World War II, only a few of the Codetalkers were killed.
This is especially intriguing considering their active participation
in the battle of Iwo Jima — one of the bloodiest battles
of the war with over 26,000 soldiers wounded or killed.
Most of the Navajo Marines participated in ceremonies and
used prayers and sacred items to protect them from harm
and believe fervently in their effectiveness.
After the Japanese surrendered, statistics confirmed that
the Navajo Code Talkers saved two million lives. The complexity
of the Navajo code, and the Navajo's intense dedication
to using it on the front lines of battle were successful;
in fact, most historians credit the Navajo Code Talkers
with shortening World War II. Unfortunately, most Navajo
returned to their reservation without medals or awards for
their valor and none received battlefield promotions. Nor
were they eligible for many years for veterans benefits.
Furthermore, the government decided to keep the Code Talkers
and their code top secret until 1967, in the event that
either might be needed again. A few years later, the Navajo
Code Talkers were recognized by the Marines in a ceremony
in Washington, D.C.
TRUE WHISPERS provides us with the unique arc of the Navajo
Code Talkers' complex story with an emphasis on the spirituality,
culture, traditions and the higher purpose of these brave,
noble warriors. Ultimately, the story is about the men themselves,
told through their experiences, their sacrifices, their
pain and ultimately their pride in serving our country.
About The Filmmakers
Valerie Red-Horse (Director, Writer, Producer) is of Cherokee
heritage and established herself as a successful actress
prior to directing, writing and producing. Her debut screenplay
Lozen was accepted to the 1995 Sundance Writers' Lab and
her 1996 CBS Schoolbreak Special, My Indian Summer, received
an Emmy. She subsequently formed her own production company,
Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc. The premiere project,
the independent feature Naturally Native, is a contemporary
Indian woman's story which Red-Horse wrote, produced, co-directed,
starred in and distributed. Red-Horse also wrote the television
movie, Beauty for NBC and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment.
Other projects include Pop Hunter's Dew Drop Inn (PBS /
NAPT), Looks into the Night (AFI), Windows On Mars (NEA)
and she is currently a fellow with the FOX Writers Diversity
Program. Red-Horse is also a licensed securities professional,
owning an investment bank on Wall Street, leads a Presbyterian
dance ministry, founded H.A.P.N., a non-profit youth training
organization, is married and the mother of three children.
For more information about Red-Horse Native Productions
contact Yvonne Russo at (818)705-2588 or visit www.naturallynative.com
Gale Ann Hurd (Producer) has brought more than two dozen
feature films before the public, generated billions of dollars
in revenue, earned Oscar nominations and awards, and championed
technological innovations, carving a pre-eminent position
for herself within the previously all-male ranks of blockbuster
film production. Her credits include The Terminator, Aliens,
Alien Nation, The Abyss, Tremors, The Waterdance, Terminator
2, Dante's Peak, and Armageddon. Hurd's service to the community
includes being a board member of the Producers Guild of
America, the Artists Rights Foundation, International SeaKeepers
Society and Mulholland Tomorrow. For the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences, Hurd serves on the Executive
Committee of the Producers Branch, chairs the Festival Grants
Committee and co-chairs the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship
Committee. This year Hurd served on the steering committee
for Hollywood for Habitat, a local outreach for Habitat
Dawn Jackson, (Producer for RHNP) a member of the Saginaw
Chippewa tribe in Michigan, Dawn has worked in the entertainment
industry for nearly fifteen years while also establishing
herself as an accomplished artist, Native American political
leader, community liaison and businesswomen. Dawn co-founded
First Americans in the Arts, a group dedicated to recognizing
the achievements of Native Americans in the entertainment
industry and providing scholarships to film students for
higher educational opportunities. Dawn has been active in
Women in Film and serves on the Advisory Board of Independent
Yvonne Russo, (Producer for RHNP) a member of the Sicangu
Lakota Tribe from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
Realizing the limited roles available for Native Americans
Yvonne turned to developing and producing in 1996 her enthusiasm
led her to produce Naturally Native, an independent feature
film about a family's dreams and relationships. In addition,
she has produced The Mars Millennium Project, a joint venture
with the national Endowment of the Arts, NASA and the J.
Paul Getty Museum. In addition to producing, Yvonne has
directed a video for Grammy Award winning artist, Duncan
Sheik. Yvonne currently serves as Vice President of Red-Horse
Productions developing a full slate of empowering projects,
and is head of distribution for Red-Horse Releasing.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) presents documentaries,
dramas and series on public television, and innovative new-media
projects on the Web. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the
American people. ITVS was established by Congress to fund
and present programs that "involve creative risks and
address the needs of underserved audiences," while
granting artistic control to independent producers. From
series like THE FARMER'S WIFE and FOTO-NOVELAS to specials
including Sundance Award winner DAUGHTER FROM DANANG, Emmy
Award winners BLINK and NOBODY'S BUSINESS, and Peabody Award
winners STILL LIFE WITH ANIMATED DOGS and THE GATE OF HEAVENLY
PEACE, ITVS productions bring viewers face-to-face with
the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. Visit
www.itvs.org for companion
Web sites and more information.