Windtalkers by Max Allen Collins

November 26, 2006

Normally don’t read war novels. Normally don’t read movie adaptation unless I happened to have watched the show and found it lacking. Read the books just to convince myself once again that the book is better than the show, and why I seldom watch shows.

But… Found the pickings at the library that day meagre, and had heard of this supposedly unbroken code called Navajo, and that a movie was made about it, called Windtalkers. Decided to pick up the book anyway. Diminutive book anyway, and ain’t too heavy.

Finished a few of the other books yesterday (3 books left out of 9) and decided to bring it along to my friend’s engagement, ’cause afterall, it’s light.

Wow… was transported on a very touching journey back to world war 2. And when I say it’s touching, you’d better believe it. Seldom feel something in my heart due to something I read, but this ending really made me want to cry…

Synopsis:

Some Dineeh men were enlisted as they know Navajo and it was being used as a code in the world war 2. No code books, only reference books would be the ones between the men’s heads once they grad out of signals school. So obviously, the capture of one of these men would be disastrous to the whole operations. What now to do but to assign “bodyguards” to these important men? But these bodyguards were given further instructions (away from the codetalkers, of course): “The Navajo has the code. Protect the code at all costs.”

Well, that’s fine when you’re talking about entities you don’t know, but people who fight together develop camaraderie and friendship, so when it comes to the time to actually do the deed, the officers have a catch-22 situation. It’s their country they’re protecting, but it’s also their friend they’re sacrificing. Is there a good way to protect both, but yet deep in their hearts, they also know that the Dineeh would be tortured for the code if captured. Would it be more merciful then to kill them?

One poignant moment occurred when the officer Anderson was killed and his codetalker Whitehorse was captured. Another officer Enders saw it and had to make the split second decision to throw a grenade at Whitehorse and his Jap captors, killing them all. His momentary indecision and the answers he had to have for his own codetalker, Yahzee certainly made me pause to think. Yahzee’s love, not only for his brother, but for all men also moved me.

Another touching moment was when they preformed the Evil Way ceremony. The Dineeh have an uneasy attitude towards death, believing that it released evil spirits, and certain ceremonies could battle these spirits. They rubbed their hands on charred firewood and smear ash on another’s cheeks. They then dab some corn pollen onto the forehead of the person going through the ceremony and sprinkle some of the corn pollen onto the earth nearby before starting to chant. What was moving was that Yahzee performed this ceremony on his bodyguard, who was having nightmares.

When Yahzee feigned being Jap and Enders pretended to be his prisoner, sneaking in to steal a replacement for Yahzee’s radio (or was it to use the Jap radio), it really made me laugh too.

A moving scene occurred when Yahzee was pinned under some war vehicle and the Japs were approaching. Knowing Ender’s orders, and that Enders was out of ammunition, Yahzee passed his (hunting??) knife over, asking Enders to kill him. Obviously another catch-22 situation, and I feel that Enders had created a cinematic moment by swinging the knife into the ground (cliche yes, but I would have gasped). Despite being injured, Enders lifted the vehicle, allowing Yahzee to pull free. They then tried to escape, but Enders got shot and died in Yahzee’s arms, facing the setting (??) sun, the mountains and the sea.

The book ended with the code being declassified when computer codes came into the picture and well… radio codes stopped being as useful as they had been. When Yahzee was asked to give a speech, and he shut his eyes for a moment, only to open them to see Enders at the edge of the reception, saluting him.

The pluses:

  • The friendship between the men, which transcended the initial racism, bigotry etc which resulted in them trying hard to protect each other, costing the lives of many in the show and book
  • The love the men had for their families, especially the Dineeh men, and their desire to serve their country, and to be remembered as good men and good Marines who died for their country.
  • The honesty. On one particular occasion, when Yahzee posed as a Jap, Enders got the purple heart. He tried to bring up to the officer that it was Yahzee’s idea and plan, but was just told to tell Yahzee that he had done a good job. Enders tried to give the medal to Yahzee, but the Dineeh, being unassuming, refused to accept. Enders then threw the medals among the dead men.
  • The love. When Enders died, he asked Yahzee to tell this girl who had been writing to him that he had read all her letters. He obviously loved her, but couldn’t write back, and couldn’t bring himself to read the letters of seeming normalcy written by her.

The minuses

  • Too much war, not enough code
  • The friendship component could have been further developed
  • The romance part was too overplayed in some instances

Seriously, I’m thinking of getting the VCD. Looks like something that would really move me, but no, I’m insisting that the tears welled up in my eyes coz of the sand in my eye! 😛

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