Indian Life Newspaper -

Last of the original Navajo Code-Talkers dies


Last updated 7/23/2014 at 8:45pm

The Navajo Nation

Chester Nez was the last original Navajo Code-Talker. He passed away peacefully on June 3rd at the age of 93.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM-Chester Nez-the last remaining original Navajo Code Talker-went to receive his reward on Wednesday, June 3rd. Sources close to the family say that Nez died peaceably. He was 93 years old.

The Navajo Code Talkers are credited to have helped change the face of World War II, using their native Navajo language as a basis of communication between American forces. The code developed-a combination of Navajo and secret words-was never broken by the Japanese forces.

As I wrote in a previous Assist News Article, "For those not familiar with the Navajo Code Talkers, a brief history is in store.

"The son of missionaries, Philip Johnston, was the first to suggest that the Navajo language might be of use to the US during World War II. Johnston learned the Navajo language in Arizona while his father, William Johnston, was working alongside the Navajo people.

"At the turn of the century, Philip traveled to Washington, D.C with his father and local Navajo leaders to meet with President Roosevelt. The intention of the meeting was to discuss Navajo land rights. Philip was the Navajo/English translator between the local Navajo leaders and President Roosevelt. Philip later served in the armed forces during World War I.

"At the outset of World War II, Philip proposed the idea of the U.S. using the Navajo language as code. As a trial, the Marines recruited four Navajos living in the Los Angeles area. The program was so successful, the acting General, Clayton Vogel, put the plan into action.

"On May 4, 1942, twenty-nine Navajo recruits boarded a bus at Ft. Defiance, Arizona, and were sent to San Diego for active duty, beginning their seven weeks of recruit training.

"The rest, if you will, is history.

"The end result is that the Navajo Code Talkers helped win the war. The Japanese couldn't break the code, so communication was unbroken, giving the US the upper hand in the Pacific.

"Since that time, movies have been made (Windtalkers with Nicholas Cage and Adam Beach), documentaries created (History Channel) and many books written by the surviving members."

On a personal level, I was honored to have met Mr. Nez on two occasions: The Gathering of the Nations Tribal Event and at a book signing. He was a generous man, smiling and greeting all that stopped by to give their respects.

In a world in need of hero's-men and women fighting for something they believe in-Nez will be a missing voice. Yet through his book, example, and life, the world can learn about the heroic nature of the Navajo Code Talkers, and a man named Chester Nez.

© 2014 Assist News Service. Used by permission.


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