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The STEM Class Podcast

May 15, 2021

At the age of 15 as a Navajo Native American, Peter MacDonald enlisted in the US Marines simply because he admired the official uniform.  Shortly after boot camp, he was recruited into a secret military program that would rely on a language that has no written form for what would later be known as a Navajo Code Talker.

The code talkers were pivotal during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a 6week intense battle that resulted in 25,000 casualties on both sides.    From a group of 450 Navajo Native Americans, MacDonald is only one of five surviving Navajo Code Talkers and he shares his life experience with The Route 66 Podcast.  After the war, MacDonald was sworn to a code of secrecy for the next 23 years while working as a Project Engineer for Howard Hughes on The Polaris Missile Project.  MacDonald also served as a Chairman of the Navajo Nation for four terms.

In addition to MacDonald, Route 66 realtor Jacque Kellogg talks about her initial reaction when a local motel owner in Flagstaff reluctantly decides to list the El Reno Motel on the market.  Unknown to her, Kellogg later learns that the motel has a historic place in history regarding the Navajo code talkers and the motel was later taken off the market.

Episode Highlights

  • Flagstaff realtor Jacque Kellogg talks about the El Reno Motel and role in recruiting Navajo code talkers
  • Peter MacDonald’s earliest memory of Route 66
  • Enlisting at the age of 15 into the US Marines
  • The Native American art of storytelling
  • Understanding a language with no written word
  • The turning point on Iwo Jima
  • A 23 year code of silence after returning home
  • A recent visit to the White House
  • An impressive career as a missile defense specialist with Howard Hughes
  • Hopes of establishing a national Navajo code talkers museum
  • What everyone should know about Navajo code talkers
  • Today’s biggest challenges for the Navajo Nation

Route 66 Patreon Program
The Route 66 Podcast has launched a Patreon campaign, where you can pledge a monthly donation to help support both the podcast and 2021 Scholarship Program.  The Route 66 Scholarship Program not only includes awards for students in grades K – 12, but will include a 2021 college level award.  More information about the Patreon program, including monthly prizes for supporters can be found here.