Mysteries at the Museum (2010) Episode Scripts

N/A - Swimming the Channel, Bricking the Bank and Canyon Survivor

A strange and very special delivery JACKSON: This is one wild plan that is truly hard to believe.
A female athlete's feat of endurance WIGO: If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
And a mountaineer's desperate dilemma Aah! JACKENTHAL: It's unthinkable.
But it was his only choice if he wanted to live.
These are the mysteries at the museum.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boasts 300 miles of canals and inland waterways, earning it the nickname "the Venice of America.
" And just a stone's throw away from shore is an institution dedicated to a popular aquatic activity -- The International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Here, visitors can find a spectacular assortment of Olympic memorabilia, including gold medals and a starting block from the 1972 Games.
But there's one object here that made the biggest splash in the history of swimming.
WIGO: The artifact is a dark blue color.
One piece resembles a modern gym short.
The other piece resembles a brassiere.
And it was worn by one of the greatest female athletes of all time.
WILDMAN: This garment was at the center of a record-breaking feat that triggered a tidal wave of change for women's sports.
WIGO: This bathing suit played a key role in one of the greatest underdog stories of history.
WILDMAN: The 1920s.
It's the golden age of sports in America.
Baseball's Babe Ruth, boxing's Jack Dempsey, and football coach Knute Rockne are regarded by the public as heroes.
But while male athletes take center stage, women are not taken seriously in sports at all.
WIGO: In 1925, it was commonly accepted that women were inferior to men.
WILDMAN: But there's one young athlete who wants to change all that -- 19-year-old swimmer Gertrude Ederle.
WIGO: Gertrude Ederle was regarded as the best woman swimmer in the world.
WILDMAN: Ederle is determined to prove that female athletes deserve just as much attention as men.
And to do it, she vows to accomplish the hardest feat in the world of sports -- swimming across the English Channel.
WIGO: Swimming the English Channel was regarded as being the most difficult physical challenge for mankind.
It was the Mount Everest of that era.
WILDMAN: The 21-mile swim from France to England is so tough, only five people have ever completed the journey, all of them men.
The thought of any woman even attempting the swim is impossible for most people to fathom.
WIGO: There's so many variables.
There's wind.
The currents can be violent.
The waves can go from being perfectly glassy to eight, nine feet high.
WILDMAN: But Ederle is undaunted.
If she can complete the epic swim, it will shine a bright spotlight on female athletes and their abilities.
WIGO: If she made it, it would change the way women were viewed forever.
WILDMAN: Convention holds that anyone who attempts to swim the English Channel must follow a strict set of rules.
Ederle can only wear a swimsuit and a cap.
She cannot use any type of flotation device.
And most importantly, she can't receive any physical assistance, not even for a second.
WIGO: If anyone touched Gertrude, she would be disqualified.
WILDMAN: On August 18, 1925, from the shores of France, Ederle begins her swim.
She's followed by a boat carrying her coaches and a group of volunteers who monitor her safety.
Ederle keeps a strong pace for more than eight hours.
And by the time she reaches mile 15, she's on track to complete the swim faster than any man before her.
WIGO: She made great progress.
She was two-thirds of the way across.
WILDMAN: But just six miles from reaching her goal, Ederle is stopped cold.
A massive wave crashes over here, causing her to swallow seawater.
WIGO: She's choking a little bit and feels like she has to vomit.
WILDMAN: She struggles to catch her breath.
And then, the unimaginable happens.
WIGO: The next thing she knew, something touched her.
WILDMAN: To her horror, a volunteer pulls Ederle onto the boat.
WIGO: He panicked, thought that she was drowning.
WILDMAN: It's a mistake that costs Ederle dearly.
The moment she was touched, the swim was over.
She was immediately disqualified.
Why did you touch me? I was fine! WILDMAN: Ederle is devastated.
Instead of changing the public's beliefs about female athletes, she's reinforced them.
WIGO: The general consensus of the public was that a woman's place was in the home, not in the English Channel.
WILDMAN: But Ederle isn't ready to give up.
She vows to tackle the swim once more.
WIGO: She was not a quitter.
Her motto was, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
" WILDMAN: On August 6, 1926, Ederle returns to France for her second battle with the English Channel.
This time, to ensure she won't be disqualified, she instructs her entourage that they are not to help her, no matter what.
She was going to die before someone would touch her.
WILDMAN: Shortly after 7:00 in the morning, Ederle plunges into the Channel.
At first, everything seems to be going well.
But less than one hour later, the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Ederle's task is now even more difficult than she could've imagined.
For hours, she swims through torrential rain and rolling waves.
WIGO: The wind started to pick up.
There were six, eight, ten-foot swells.
She was being tossed all over the place.
WILDMAN: Ederle's support team urges her to get on the boat, but the brave athlete refuses to stop.
She was aching all over and her tongue was swollen.
It was impossible.
But she persevered.
WILDMAN: Finally, after 14 hours, she reaches the shores of Dover, England.
WIGO: While she started to come out, there was just a huge roar.
She had proven that a woman could do it.
WILDMAN: But that's not her only cause for celebration.
WIGO: Her time, 14 hours and 31 minutes, shatters the men's English Channel record by almost two hours.
WIGO: Not only did she do what a man could do, she did it better.
It was a huge accomplishment for her but it was a bigger accomplishment for the world and for women's rights.
WILDMAN: Today, this swimsuit, belonging to Gertrude Ederle, is on display at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.
It recalls the brave, determined woman who swam her way into the history books.
Weston, Massachusetts.
This picturesque town traces its history back to the 1600s, when it was a stop along America's very first mail route.
And charting this rich heritage is the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History.
It contains more than a million stamps, envelopes, and other postal artifacts from all over the world.
But there's an object here that is connected to one of the U.
S.
Postal Service's most bizarre deliveries.
JACKSON: The artifact is a foot and a half wide and 2 1/2 feet tall.
It is green and metal.
It has a window in it with an array of numbers behind it.
WILDMAN: This antique scale may look ordinary, but it was part of a crazy scheme that sparked a national phenomenon.
JACKSON: This is a tale of one wild plan that is truly hard to believe.
WILDMAN: 1916.
Vernal, Utah.
Business in this remote mining town is booming.
Its streets are lined with shops, saloons, and even a dentist's office.
But residents are missing one key thing.
JACKSON: There was no bank in Vernal.
The nearest bank was over 120 miles away.
WILDMAN: Townspeople have no place to safeguard their hard-earned cash, and in the wilds of the Utah frontier, that's a big problem.
Vernal's remote location makes it an easy target for ruthless gangs who regularly rob the settlement.
The people of Vernal needed a bank to keep their money safe and secure.
WILDMAN: And there's one member of the community who's determined to help his fellow citizens -- 32-year-old businessman W.
H.
Coltharp.
JACKSON: Coltharp always looked to find the way to help his town.
WILDMAN: Coltharp decides to build a bank right in the heart of Vernal.
But it won't be easy.
He needs 80,000 bricks.
And the only place to get them is more than 100 miles way in Salt Lake City.
Normally, construction materials are transported by freight trains or horse-drawn wagons.
But when Coltharp looks into the costs, his plans hit a brick wall.
JACKSON: In order to have the bricks freighted to him, it would actually cost four times the cost of the bricks themselves.
Coltharp was absolutely shocked.
WILDMAN: Coltharp can't afford to pay for freight.
It seems like his dreams of building a bank are at an end.
But then, while weighing his options, inspiration strikes.
Coltharp realizes that there's another company that regularly makes deliveries to Vernal -- the U.
S.
Postal Service.
Coltharp combs through postal rulebooks and finds a little-known regulation he can exploit.
The post office will ship any package as long as it's under 50 pounds.
The tenacious businessman runs the numbers and calculates that he can mail 80,000 bricks for half of what it would cost to have them shipped by freight train or wagon.
Brick by brick, he'll build his bank.
JACKSON: All he had to do was keep each package under 50 pounds and it was going to work.
WILDMAN: In July, Coltharp travels to Salt Lake City.
There he carefully boxes up 80,000 bricks into 8,000 packages of 10 bricks each, being sure to keep each package under the 50-pound limit.
Coltharp hauls his parcels to the post office.
But when he presents them to the mail clerks, they refuse to accept them.
They complain that it will take weeks to process the entire batch.
But the businessman states he's followed the guidelines to a tee.
And so the disgruntled workers have no choice but to start shipping the packages, all 8,000 of them.
Coltharp was extremely excited.
WILDMAN: The post office slowly processes Coltharp's bricks, sending them in batches from Salt Lake City to Vernal.
Coltharp heads home, happy in the knowledge that his crafty scheme is working.
But then, with 20,000 bricks yet to leave Salt Lake City, Coltharp gets devastating news.
The postmaster general, a man named Albert Burleson, has caught wind of the sneaky ploy, and he's hellbent on putting a stop to it.
JACKSON: Burleson considered Coltharp's plan an egregious misuse of the system.
WILDMAN: Burleson proposes a change to the postal rules to limit schemes like Coltharp's.
JACKSON: Burleson wanted to limit the maximum amount that could be sent from person to person.
WILDMAN: If he pushes it through before the rest of the bricks are shipped to Vernal, Coltharp won't be able to build the bank his town so desperately needs.
JACKSON: Coltharp worried that the bank might not be built.
WILDMAN: Will all of Coltharp's bricks get to Vernal, or will his plan crumble to the ground? It's 1960, Vernal, Utah.
Savvy businessman W.
H.
Coltharp wants to build his town a bank.
To save money, he ships 40 tons of bricks through the U.
S.
mail.
But the postmaster general is infuriated and resolves to put a stop to the delivery.
So can Coltharp build his town the bank it needs, or will his bricks get permanently lost in the mail? The postmaster general proposes a change in the postal rules so customers can only ship a maximum of 200 pounds through the mail in a single day.
It looks like Coltharp's audacious plan has come undone.
JACKSON: Coltharp was in a bit of a panic.
WILDMAN: But then the rules work in his favor yet again.
Changing postal regulations is a time-consuming and laborious process involving a slew of bureaucracy and red tape, even for the postmaster general.
There's no way Burleson can get it done before Coltharp's shipment of bricks is completed.
In November 1916, Coltharp receives his last package.
JACKSON: Coltharp was thrilled to be able to get everything he needed, and at a cost that was very reasonable.
WILDMAN: Construction of the bank in Vernal is completed in February 1917.
JACKSON: When the building was finished, it was considered to be the largest thing ever mailed through the parcel service.
WILDMAN: When the bank opens, the townspeople finally have somewhere safe to put their money.
Today, this scale is on display at the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History.
It recalls the story of a clever Utah businessman whose weighty plan tipped the scale in his favor.
Southwestern Utah is home to breathtaking vistas, striking sandstone formations, and majestic canyons.
In fact, it's been the setting of some of the most iconic Westerns ever made.
And celebrating this unique history is the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage.
On display is a bugle from the 1950 masterpiece "Rio Grande," a saddle used by John Wayne, and a dummy from the 1991 hit "Thelma & Louise.
" But among these mementos of movie magic is one prop that belies a harrowing true life story.
JACKENTHAL: It's 78 inches wide, 60 inches tall.
It's painted on its surface with an image of a mountain and words that say, "Horseshoe Canyon Trailhead 47 miles.
" WILDMAN: This trail marker recalls a frightening tale of adventure, endurance, and heroism.
This is a story of one man's will to survive against all odds.
WILDMAN: April 2003, Utah.
27-year-old mechanical engineer Aron Ralston is hiking in a remote part of Canyonlands National Park.
This is rugged terrain with tall mountains and rock formations.
You're sort of out there, away from everything and civilization.
WILDMAN: Ralston is a highly-experienced mountaineer.
But on this day, he is following a relatively simple trail to explore some nearby caves and plans to be home by nightfall.
It was a sunny, beautiful day.
Everything was going perfect.
WILDMAN: But four hours into his trip, his relaxing hike becomes a nightmare.
JACKENTHAL: Ralston grabbed onto a huge boulder, thinking it would support him.
Suddenly, it moves.
And suddenly, Aron was falling.
[ Screams ] WILDMAN: When the dust clears, Ralston's right arm is pinned between the giant boulder and the canyon wall.
He is trapped.
And then he has a horrifying realization -- no one knows where he is.
Ralston left that morning without telling anyone where he was going.
WILDMAN: Even if his friends back home realize he's missing, they have absolutely no idea where to look for him.
And in the vastness of the national park, the likelihood of another hiker stumbling upon him is slim to none.
Alone and in agony, Ralston comes to a sobering conclusion.
If he is going to survive, he'll have to somehow save himself.
The outdoorsman takes stock of his resources.
He has a pocket knife, a length of climbing rope, and a small bottle of water.
First, Ralston tries to free his arm by using the knife to chip away at the surface of the boulder, but he barely makes a dent.
Next, he slings his climbing rope over the rock and tries to use his body weight to lift it off his arm.
Yet again, his efforts are in vain.
JACKENTHAL: Aron must have been freaking out.
Nothing like this has happened to him before.
WILDMAN: It seems his only hope is that somehow, someone will find him.
But hours and then days pass and no one comes.
After five days at the bottom of the canyon, Ralston is on the verge of death.
JACKENTHAL: He was dehydrated and hungry and delirious.
He was really just ready to give up.
WILDMAN: But then, the desperate hiker is struck with a radical idea.
There is a way to free himself, but it will require an almost unthinkable act.
He was going to do anything he could to survive.
It's 2003 in Utah.
27-year-old Aron Ralston is hiking in a remote canyon when he's caught in a sudden rockslide.
When the dust settles, his right arm is trapped beneath a massive boulder.
After five long days at the bottom of this canyon, it seems his fate is sealed.
But then Ralston has an idea that just might save his life.
Trapped, alone, and on the verge of death, Ralston decides his only chance of escape is to cut off his own arm.
JACKENTHAL: It's unthinkable, but it was his only choice if he wanted to live.
WILDMAN: He fashions a tourniquet and ties it around his upper arm.
Then, he slowly cuts into his own flesh.
[ Grunts ] JACKENTHAL: It was an extraordinary task.
And only someone with an extraordinary will to live could perform something so grisly.
[ Screams ] WILDMAN: For an hour, Ralston slices through inch after inch of muscle and bone until finally he is released.
Summoning all his strength, he begins the arduous journey back to his car.
After six agonizing miles, Ralston spots a group of hikers on the horizon.
JACKENTHAL: He was overcome with joy when he saw the hikers.
He knew he was safe.
WILDMAN: The hikers rush to his aid, and soon after, Ralston is airlifted to the nearest hospital.
After the harrowing ordeal, Ralston travels the country to share his experience as a motivational speaker, and his amazing tale of survival inspires a Hollywood film, "127 Hours," a prop from which is now on display at the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage, where it serves as a fitting reminder of one man's incredible will to survive.
Southwestern Idaho is famous for its underground hot springs, and in the city of Boise, more than 80 buildings are heated with geothermal water, including the state capitol.
But there's one institution that showcases a chilling side of the region's past -- the Old Idaho State Penitentiary.
Once home to the area's most notorious criminals, it's now a museum.
The displays include a 19th-century jail cell, a pair of weighted iron shackles, and a collection of contraband weapons.
And among these eerie relics is a set of items from an incendiary moment in Idaho history.
BEIERLE: It is a metal object.
It is in four different pieces.
Definitely is not in its original state and it's been through something quite explosive.
WILDMAN: This mangled piece of metal recalls a harrowing tale of conspiracy, political power, and murder.
BEIERLE: This is a story about a shocking assassination that shook Idaho to its core.
WILDMAN: December 30, 1905.
Caldwell, Idaho.
Police on the night shift get an urgent call.
There's been an explosion at the home of the former governor, Frank Steunenberg.
[ Siren wailing ] Cops rush to Steunenberg's house.
When they arrive, they find the property's front gate has been blown to pieces.
And nearby, in a pool of blood, is the dead body of the governor.
BEIERLE: The scene is very chaotic.
The investigators are shocked.
They immediately want answers.
They want to know why this happened.
Investigators sift through the debris, and three items stick out -- plaster of Paris, fishing line, and the remnants of a revolver, the same pieces now on display at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary.
To the police, it's obvious these are the components of a crude bomb.
BEIERLE: It's very clear to investigators that this was done purposefully and it was meant to take the governor's life.
WILDMAN: Police are determined to catch the bomber, but there's no shortage of suspects.
Throughout his political career, Governor Steunenberg made a slew of enemies.
His policies stoked the ire of labor activists, mining unions, and left-wing militants.
But before detectives can even begin to round up any suspects, someone comes forward with a valuable tip.
BEIERLE: The investigators get a lead that will crack the case wide open.
WILDMAN: A waitress at a local hotel restaurant says that on the night of the explosion, she served a man who was acting suspiciously.
BEIERLE: He's very pale.
His hands are shaking.
He won't look her in the eye and it's just not right.
WILDMAN: Intrigued, investigators search the man's hotel room.
Inside they find plaster of Paris and fishing line, the same items used to rig the bomb.
BEIERLE: It's very evident to the investigators this is the man who killed Governor Steunenberg.
WILDMAN: The hotel guest is arrested and brought in for questioning.
He identifies himself as Harry Orchard.
But other than that, he refuses to speak.
Harry Orchard reveals nothing.
He's keeping tight-lipped.
WILDMAN: Police research Orchard's background, but they end up with more questions than answers.
The young man does not appear to be among Steunenberg's many enemies, nor to have any motive to want him dad.
Something just doesn't add up.
WILDMAN: So who is Harry Orchard, and why would he commit such a heinous crime? It's 1906, Caldwell, Idaho.
Police are trying to unravel a baffling case.
Former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg has been killed by a man named Harry Orchard.
But when detectives look into his background, they find nothing to link Orchard to the governor.
So who's behind this incendiary crime? Finally, it dawns on the detectives.
Their suspect wasn't acting alone.
Harry Orchard was a hired assassin.
WILDMAN: Police decide to use Orchard's status as a gun for hire against him.
So they offer him a deal.
They will spare him the death penalty if he gives up his employer.
Sure enough, Orchard accepts their offer.
BEIERLE: Orchard finally confesses that he was in fact not acting alone.
WILDMAN: Orchard admits that he was hired by a labor union called the Western Federation of Miners.
The radical group had a long-standing feud with the governor that began when he sent violent troops to break up one of their strikes.
The move infuriated the miners and they vowed to get their revenge.
So their hired Orchard, a professional hitman, to take out the governor.
BEIERLE: The Western Federation of Miners clearly was sending a message that if you mess with the unions, there will be consequences.
WILDMAN: Orchard is convicted of murder.
As promised, he is spared execution but is sentenced to life in prison.
And today, this revolver used to trigger the bomb remains on display at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, where it recalls an explosive crime that shook the state to its very core.
WILDMAN: Ceremonial aprons worn by the Masons, a collection of 18th-century clocks, and a rare 15-star flag from 1794 are all on display at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.
And among these time-worn relics is one object that took center stage in a long-forgotten yet critical moment of American history.
The artifact is about 11 1/2 inches long, two inches wide.
It's made out of densely grained dark wood.
And it's got some wonderful carving in it.
WILDMAN: This ornate firearm recalls a brave captain and the bizarre incident that changed the fate of the nation.
This is a story about a failure that shaped history.
[ Laughter ] WILDMAN: 1778.
Two years into the Revolutionary War, the battle for American independence is not going well.
The British, with their steady supply of provisions, ammunition, and artillery Fire! Have a huge tactical advantage.
But one man is on a critical mission to turn the tide -- 31-year-old American naval captain John Paul Jones.
ANDERSON STELLING: John Paul Jones was a bold and decisive leader.
He was known for his bravery and he had a lot of experience at sea.
WILDMAN: Jones and his crew are sailing to England.
Their job is to stop the Redcoats from getting their supplies.
To do this, the captain has an audacious plan -- attack the British on their own soil.
ANDERSON STELLING: To attack the shores of England was an incredibly dangerous undertaking.
WILDMAN: Jones plans to cut off the enemy's supplies at their source.
His target is the southern port of Whitehaven.
ANDERSON STELLING: There were anywhere from 200 to 300 British supply ships in that harbor.
WILDMAN: But it's a dangerous task.
The British coast was well-protected.
In Whitehaven, there were two forts guarding the harbor.
Jones faced dying in the attempt or being captured and held as a prisoner.
WILDMAN: On April 22, Jones puts his daring plan in motion.
The captain divides his crew into two teams.
One group of sailors is sent to the harbor to set fire to enemy ships using lamp oil.
The other group, led by Jones himself, will head to Whitehaven's forts to sabotage British cannons.
Jones' team has no trouble carrying out its mission.
But when he looks down on the harbor, it seems the other group did not fare as well.
ANDERSON STELLING: He hoped to see flames on the horizon, but he saw nothing.
Not a single British vessel was on fire and the second team was nowhere to be seen.
WILDMAN: Something must've gone horribly wrong.
ANDERSON STELLING: Jones was searching for a reason why his men hadn't accomplished the mission they had set out to do.
WILDMAN: So what happened to his brave band of sailors? It's 1778.
The Revolutionary War is at its peak.
An American naval captain named John Paul Jones is leading an audacious two-pronged attack against the British.
What makes this assault so special is that it's on British soil.
But with the mission underway, half of Jones' crew goes missing.
So what has happened to this band of wayward revolutionaries? For hours, John Paul Jones waits anxiously, wondering what happened to his missing crew.
Finally, at sunrise, the men return.
They're unharmed.
And the reason they give for their delay is even stranger than Captain Jones could've expected.
According to the sailors, as soon as they got to shore, they realized they had made a critical error.
They did not bring enough oil to burn down the ships.
So the men snuck into the village to find more and stopped at the first establishment they saw -- a pub.
The men didn't find any oil, but they did find beer.
So they stopped for a drink.
WILDMAN: The thirsty sailors were unable to restrain themselves.
One round led to another, and before long, the men were legless drunk.
And they proceeded to stay there for some time and lost sight of their mission.
WILDMAN: Jones is furious.
He has no choice but to abandon the rest of the mission.
But as he and his crew make their escape, they have just enough time and oil to quickly set one British ship on fire.
While he does not achieve his original goal, the impact of Jones' attack on Whitehaven, the first foreign assault on British soil in more than 100 years, is felt far and wide.
Whitehaven's newspaper publishes a special edition detailing what it dubs "the invasion," and the story is reprinted in the London Morning Post.
The attack at Whitehaven was a psychological blow to the British.
WILDMAN: The incident remains the only attack on England during the Revolutionary War, and Captain Jones goes down as one of the most important naval officers in U.
S.
history.
ANDERSON STELLING: Today John Paul Jones is considered the father of the American navy.
WILDMAN: This firearm, used by the captain in the attack on Whitehaven, is on display at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.
It serves as a reminder that even the best-laid plans can be undone by a group of drunken sailors.
900-year-old sandstone ruins, enormous natural rock formations, and fossilized dinosaur tracks.
This 27,000-square-mile territory, stretching across Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, is the Navajo Nation, and located in Tuba City, Arizona, is a unique institution that celebrates the region's history and culture -- the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum.
It features exquisite turquoise jewelry, pottery decorated with images of Navajo deities, and a full-sized brush and mud dwelling known as a hogan.
But among these traditional handcrafted artifacts is a more modern machine.
HANLEY: It's about 9 1/2 inches tall, 7 1/2 inches wide.
It's adorned with knobs and dials.
Attached to the side is an old-fashioned telephone receiver.
WILDMAN: This unique contraption was central to a secret mission that saw the Navajo people save countless lives.
HANLEY: This object played a key role in winning the Second World War.
WILDMAN: 1942.
The United States is embroiled in a fierce battle against Japan for control of the Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese have seized virtually every island as far south as Papua New Guinea.
The Americans plan to take them back one by one.
And on August 7, 1942, they drop 10,000 troops on the shores of Guadalcanal, where they engage in a mobile ground war.
Key to their strategy is the ability to relay battle plans between units using secret codes.
Communication was the key to everything.
WILDMAN: But it soon becomes clear there's a major problem.
Every time the American troops make a move, they're ambushed by the enemy.
It's almost as if the Japanese know exactly when they're coming.
HANLEY: This was devastating for America and its Allies.
Thousands of people were being killed.
WILDMAN: U.
S.
officials conclude there's only one way to explain it -- the Japanese have cracked their codes.
The U.
S.
needs a new code, and fast.
If they can't find a way to send messages without them being intercepted by the Japanese, they will surely lose the battle for the Pacific and even the entire war.
HANLEY: They had to ask themselves, how can we better this? How can we improve? WILDMAN: Tasked with solving the crisis is Lieutenant Colonel James E.
Jones of the Marine Signal Corps.
First, in an effort to fool the enemy, the Marines create codes using words that would be unfamiliar to most Japanese people, including slang, American colloquialisms, and even profanity, but it's no use.
The ambushes continue.
HANLEY: Thousands of lives were lost on movements that were intercepted by the Japanese.
WILDMAN: So the military turns to a different method of encryption -- cipher machines.
These oversized, typewriter-like contraptions create codes that are nearly uncrackable.
But they have one major disadvantage.
They are incredibly slow.
By the time the soldiers in the field decrypt a message, it's often too late for the information to be useful.
It seems that Jones and the Marines are out of options.
What Jones doesn't know is that the solution to America's problem will come from a most unlikely source.
It's 1942.
World War II is raging.
The Japanese have gained a crucial advantage in the Pacific Theater.
They've cracked the Americans' secret military codes.
Charged with developing a new encryption method for the U.
S.
is Lieutenant Colonel James E.
Jones of the Marine Signal Corps.
So far, everything he's tried has failed.
But he's about to get help from a most unlikely source.
In February, Jones receives a curious suggestion -- use a Native American language, like Navajo, as the basis of a new military code.
Intrigued, Jones meets with members of the Navajo tribe, and when they describe their language, Jones is astounded.
HANLEY: The Navajo language was unknown to anyone who was not part of the Navajo culture.
WILDMAN: Not only that, but it's almost impossible for outsiders to learn.
HANLEY: There was no alphabet.
There was no text.
It was all language based on verbal communication.
That was a huge benefit.
No one could actually go out to school and learn the Navajo language.
If the American military can relay messages in Navajo, it will be impossible for the Japanese to translate it.
Lieutenant Jones was astonished.
If this idea was successful, it would change the whole course of World War II.
WILDMAN: The Marine Corps recruits a team of Navajo soldiers and embeds them in units across the Pacific Theater.
HANLEY: The Marine Corps referred to these young men as Navajo Code Talkers.
Wherever the U.
S.
Marine Corps went, they followed.
WILDMAN: Throughout the war, they transmit messages in Navajo using field telephones like the one on display at the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum.
The strategy is a stunning success.
The Japanese never decode a single message sent in Navajo, allowing the United States to continue its march across the Pacific.
HANLEY: The U.
S.
military would not have won World War II without the Navajo soldiers.
WILDMAN: To this day, the use of Navajo holds an incredible distinction in the annals of American history.
It was the only unbroken code in U.
S.
military history.
It brought a lot of cultural recognition to the Navajo people.
WILDMAN: And this field telephone at the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum serves as an important reminder of how a little-known language may have won a war.
From a channel swimmer to a canyon survivor, a postal plot to a drunken invasion I'm Don Wildman, and these are the mysteries at the museum.