The Last Of The Navajo Code Talkers

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Only one veteran Navajo code talker remains of the original 29 Navajo Marines who used their native language to devise an unbreakable code during World War II.

Growing up in New Mexico, Chester Nez and many of his fellow Navajo were punished for speaking their language. In the 1920s, Nez attended one of many government run boarding schools that attempted to erase Indian culture and language.

“I often think about the things I went through, all the hardships,” Nez said. He was being interviewed at the studios of KUNM in Albuquerque for Veterans Day.

Years later, Nez was shocked to learn he’d been recruited by the Marines, specifically to devise a code using the same language the government tried to beat out of him. Judith Avila helped Nez write his memoir Code Talker, which was just published.

“It was extremely ironic one of the very things they were forbidden to do – speak Navajo – ended up helping save us during the war,” Avila said.


Above, you can hear Chester Nez, and listen to the rest of this story. If you listen to the audio, you will also hear “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” sung in Navajo. At this link, you can read the rest of the story instead of listening to it, and you can watch the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony of July 26, 2001 in which five of the original Navajo code talkers, including Chester Nez, were honored for their service during World War II. At the top is a short slide show with photos of Chester Nez, then and now.

Monument to Navajo code talkers in Window Rock, AZ, from Wikipedia

Navajo Veterans’ Memorial and cemetary, a photo I took in Window Rock in 2007

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