El Pueblo Motel, which sits on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Ariz., played a critical role in the creation of Navajo Code Talkers for use of military communication during World War II, according to an article today in the Arizona Daily Sun.
Philip Johnson built what was then called El Pueblo Motor Inn in 1937, and it remains the city’s oldest motel on Route 66 outside of downtown.
It was from the motel that Johnston engineered the recruitment of Navajos to serve in the Marines as Code Talkers.
The property itself is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a national landmark because it exemplifies the motor court building type and it is associated with an individual who made significant contributions to American and world history. […]
The El Pueblo Motor Inn is one of 27 remaining motels, out of 50 in 1960, from Chicago to Los Angeles that contribute to the National Historic District of Route 66.
Johnson, who was born in 1892 in Topeka, Kan., came to Flagstaff at age 4 with his missionary father. He learned to speak Navajo while playing with the local children on the reservation. Johnson served in the Army in World War I, and noted that Comanche Indians were being used as code talkers by military units.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked and America entered the war, Johnston wrote a “Proposed Plan for Recruiting Indian Signal Corps Personnel,” which he submitted in February 1942 to Major General Clayton B. Vogel and his staff to convince them of the value of the Navajo language as code.
“Because of the fact that a complete understanding of words and terms comprising the various Indian languages could be had only by those whose ears had been highly trained in them, these dialects would be ideally suited to communication in various branches of our armed forces,” he wrote.
Johnston recommended recruitment from the Navajo tribe, because at 49,338 member, it was the largest tribe in the U.S., according to his research in 1942.
Johnson also joined the Marines at age 50 in 1942. After the war, he became an advocate for Native American issues until his death in 1978.
Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library keeps a collection of Johnson’s papers in its archives, although it’s noted that a sizable gap occurs between 1942 to 1945 — probably due to the top-secret nature of Johnson’s work at the time.