I learned of Samuel “Jesse” Smith’s passing, at age 88 in Albuquerque on April 15, from complications of a viral infection. His son, Michael Smith, a Marine Corps veteran like his dad, called me with the news.
I was legal counsel for the Navajo Code Talkers Association for many years from the 1980s until 2009. During that period, I suggested, helped organize, and with my wife, Andrea, helped finance a film expedition that we called “Back to the Battlefields.” The Navajo Code Talkers were all Marines and fought exclusively in the Pacific Theater. Their story is generally better known now than it used to be. The New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs later helped finance the filming of the expedition and I understand now owns the resulting raw footage. The filming was done by a film producer named George Colburn and his company, Starbright Enterprises Inc. Tom McCarthy, who retired from the New Mexico Film Division and lives near Santa Fe, was a co-producer, along with Santa Fe resident Pilar Faulkner and did much of the filming: First to Guam, Saipan and Tinian in November 2005; the second to Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 2006.