University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

Daughter to Preview MGM Film

UCR Employee’s Father was Code Talker during World War II

(June 10, 2002)

Leanna Mojado, a program representative at UCR Extension, will get a sneak peek Tuesday, June 11 of the MGM film “Windtalkers,” starring Nicolas Cage as a bodyguard to a Navajo Code Talker.

Mojado’s father, Johnny R. Manuelito, Sr., was one of the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers, who first used their complex and unwritten ancestral language to successfully encode, transmit, and decode battle instructions during World War II.

The movie, which opens in theaters Friday, June 14, will be previewed for living Code Talkers and their families in major cities in coming days, to honor their sacrifice for their country during war time. The Japanese were never able to break the code, and the safe transmission of information was widely credited with turning the tide in major battles during World War II.

“My father died in 1968, the same year the code was declassified, never knowing the extent of his contribution to the war,” said Mojado. “I wish that he had lived to see how the nation honored him.”

President George W. Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal last Summer to all the original 29 Code Talkers, or their surviving family members, calling the men “American Heroes.” Manuelito’s medal is now on loan from the family to the San Diego Museum of Man for the current exhibit on Code Talkers, which lasts through July 15.

“We not only wanted to honor my dad by showing the medal, but all Native Americans who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Mojado, who lives in Riverside. After that, the medal will be exhibited at the Command Museum aboard the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, where three generations of Manuelito family members have graduated as Marines.

“This family is a credit to our country and we are grateful to have someone as dedicated as Leanna working within UCR Extension,” said Jack Azzaretto, vice chancellor of public services and international programs.

On the website of the San Diego Museum of Man, there is information about Manuelito’s honorable career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He participated in the capture of Iwo Jima and the occupation of Japan with the 5th Marine Division, achieved the rank of sergeant, and was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asian Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

The Navajo Code Talkers participated in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942-1945, serving in all six Marine Divisions, and Raider and Parachute Battalions. The movie “Windtalkers,” portrays the relationship between a Code Talker and his bodyguard. In the movie, the body guard has orders to kill the Code Talker if he is about to be captured, and the tension surrounding that order is what provides some of the movie’s suspense.

The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were recruited from the reservation 60 years ago, in May of 1942. They attended boot camp at the Marine Corps Base in San Diego, California. The new Navajo recruits developed a dictionary and then memorized it. They first used the code at Guadalcanal, while two of their original number stayed behind to be instructors for 400 additional Navajo soldiers who served their country with their words.

University Extension serves 30,000 people each year who earn a professional certificate, learn a new language or take on a hobby with evening and weekend seminars. It also has the nation’s fifth largest program in English for international students.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Media Relations
900 University Avenue
1156 Hinderaker Hall
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-6397 (951) UCR-NEWS
Fax: (951) 827-5008

Related Links