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Navajo Code Talkers honored at ceremony



Published: Sun, November 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Navajo Code Talkershonored at ceremony

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- Navajo Code Talkers, whose code based on their native tongue was never cracked by the Japanese during World War II, were honored Saturday in a ceremony that many said was long overdue.

Thousands of people watched as more than 300 Congressional Silver Medals were presented to the surviving Code Talkers.

The Code Talkers were honored for a code that, indecipherable by the Japanese, was credited with saving thousands of lives and turning the tide of decisive battles in the Pacific.

"It feels great," 76-year-old Samuel Smith said after receiving his medal. "I think I finally became an American."

Smith, of Stanolind, N.M., said he didn't ask for the job or the award.

"I'm proud to have done what I did," he said.

The initial 29 Code Talkers who created the code were honored with Congressional Gold Medals last summer in Washington. Those honored Saturday joined the group later in the war.

The Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy about their roles in the war. It wasn't until 1968 that the government declassified the project.

Mom who killed babyat prom to be released

CLINTON, N.J. -- A young woman who gave birth in a bathroom stall at her high school prom, then killed the infant before returning to the dance floor, is expected to be freed from prison this week despite prosecutors' objections.

Melissa Drexler, now 23, has served just over three years of the 15-year sentence she was given after pleading guilty in 1998 to aggravated manslaughter.

She is expected to be freed from the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility on Monday.

"She did her time," Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye said Saturday. "We received a notice of her impending parole a few months ago and put in an objection because we oppose early parole on general principles. But the likelihood of her constituting a threat to the public is minimal."

As an 18-year-old senior at Lacey Township High School, Drexler concealed her pregnancy from the baby's father and her parents. She gave birth on June 6, 1997, in a restroom while at the prom and threw the 6-pound, 6-ounce boy into a trash can before returning to the dance.

She was originally charged with murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter. Her sentence allowed her to come up for parole in September.

Divers recovery bodyof missing sailor

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Divers have recovered the remains of one of two Navy sailors presumed drowned after a rickety, oil-laden ship sank in Persian Gulf, a Navy spokeswoman confirmed Saturday.

The remains of Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Johnson were recovered on Friday, said Lt. Melissa Schuermann, spokeswoman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain. She said the 21-year-old sailor was identified based on his personal effects.

Johnson's father, Kenneth Johnson, told The Associated Press on Friday that he had received a phone call notifying him that his son's body had been found.

"At first, I thought it was a mistake and that they could still find him," Johnson said from his home in Rochester, N.Y. "Now there's no doubt he's really dead."

Benjamin Johnson was one of two U.S. sailors from the USS Peterson who were listed as missing after a rickety United Arab Emirates-flagged tanker they had boarded sank about 80 miles southeast of Kuwait's Al-Ahmadi port.

The family of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Parker of Preston, Miss., also missing after the tanker sank, is planning a memorial service for him this week, his brother, Stephen Parker, said Thursday.

Death toll rises to 47 in Colombian landslide

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Work crews dug more bodies from a pile of rock and mud left by a landslide at a condemned Colombian mine, bringing the death toll to 47 on Saturday. An official said there was no hope of finding survivors.

More than 30 victims were still believed buried in the hillside that caved in and swept over about 200 people searching for gold Thursday at the mine in Filadelfia, about 120 miles west of Bogota.

Authorities outlawed commercial mining at the site earlier this year over fears that erosion had made it too dangerous, but private prospectors and local residents desperate for cash continued seeking gold there.

Julian Arboleda, an aide to the Caldas state governor, said workers would continue searching for bodies until Monday. He said there was no chance anyone buried could still be alive beneath the rubble.

Associated Press




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