Diné historian finds '30th man'

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 5, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

This 1942 photo shows the Original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. However, Zonnie Gorman has likely solved a mystery that has eluded professional historians for seven decades. She has discovered the name of the 30th man, who was recruited as a Navajo Code Talker.

The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis is not the sort of place you can jump up on the table and dance, however much you may want to.

Zonnie Gorman settled for posting on her Facebook page in capital letters.

"OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!" she typed on her cell phone Aug.2. "I found the 30th man!"

Most people probably thought, "Huh?" But students of Navajo history reading that post took a gasp. The middle-aged empty-nester who recently went back to her graduate history studies after a 17-year hiatus had solved a mystery that has eluded professional historians for seven decades.

The 30th man recruited as a Navajo Code Talker, the one who never showed up for the bus ride to Camp Pendleton, now has a name if not yet a face: George Clinton.

Gorman has waited until now to share his identity because she was hoping to find Clinton's family first. But it's getting late in the year and Gorman is planning to lay a wreath on Clinton's grave Dec. 14 in conjunction with the Wreaths Across America campaign, so she called in the aid of the Times.

"I'm hoping one of his descendants, or someone who knew him, reads this story and contacts me," Gorman said.

Most people familiar with the story of the Navajo Code Talkers know the Marines originally recruited 30 men to develop the code, but only 29 showed up at Camp Pendleton on May 5, 1942.

"Over the years," said Gorman, "many Navajo men have stepped up claiming to be the 30th man. But their stories could never be proved."

Gorman, a daughter of the late Code Talker Carl Gorman, had always been interested in the mystery. She came close to solving it in 2001, when she and her mother were tracking down the surviving members of the original 29 for then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman so the men could be awarded Congressional medals.

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