Death of a Navajo Code Talker

Chester Nez was the only surviving Navajo code talker left from the Second World War until he passed away at the age of 93 in his New Mexico home. He and his ilk had been highly useful to the Marine Corps as they were able to speak in an unwritten language indecipherable to the enemy. Now no Navajo code talker remains from that important class of soldiers who helped maintain secrecy in the 1940s.

The Marines put out a statement declaring their gratitude for Nez and the men like him in honor of his death and his life of service. He was one of twenty-nine just men who developed important methods of maintaining secrecy as a Navajo code talker. Although the language had previously been unseen in writing, Nez and his fellow men created a dictionary to help the other soldiers who were less familiar with their language and simply needed it as a form of encrypted speech for their important messages during the war.

Nez was a young man at the time of his enlistment, still in his teens. Despite his youth, it was his heritage that made him useful, as his language was not easy for people outside of the culture to grasp. As a Navajo code talker, Nez saw the number of men in his position grow from twenty-nine to three hundred in a matter of years. Given the incredible secrecy of his position, he was unable to talk about his work for decades, only being released from secrecy in 1968.

Having used some of the more simple words in the language so as to make things easier on the soldiers, Nez went on to win a Congressional Gold Medal, as did every other original Navajo code talker on the initial team. Their lives were not easy, as they were in constant use when in battle. The men were also not accepted by other Marines at first, but they quickly proved their use and eventually became legendary icons of history, the CNN Edition reports.

Nez remembered that before he became a Navajo code talker, he was not allowed to speak his language in school. His actions helped to increase not only acceptance, but respect. He was aware of the importance he and his ilk had during the war, and hoped that they would always be remembered for their valor. Now that the last original Navajo code talker is deceased, his memory is all the word has of this truly legendary group of men.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE