Some sad news to report: Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo Code Talkers, died yesterday at his home in New Mexico. According to reports, Nez, 93, died of kidney failure.
The Navajo Code Talkers used the Navajo language to stump the Japanese and deliver hundreds of encrypted messages during World War II. Their efforts helped secure Allied victory in the Pacific theater. The Navajo Code Talkers’ mission remained classified until 1968. In 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 National Navajo Code Talkers Day. You can read more about the Code Talkers in a story that appeared in the February 1989 issue of Arizona Highways.
Our thoughts are with Nez’s family.
Yesterday, members of the Navajo Nation, including President Ben Shelly, gathered in Window Rock to honor the contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers who risked their lives to deliver hundreds of encrypted messages during World War II. Twenty Navajo Code Talkers were on hand to hear Shelly salute their efforts, which helped the U.S. secure its victory in the Pacific theater.
According to an article that ran in Indian Country:
“The Navajo Code Talkers are lauded for hastening a swift end to World War II by providing the U.S. with a dictionary of Navajo words that were transmitted by radio and telephones. The code carried sensitive information about troop movements and other imperative field operations.
Following Iwo Jima, Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, stated ‘were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.’”
In 1982, then President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 National Navajo Code Talkers Day. For more information about the Navajo Code Talkers, visit www.Navajocodetalkers.org, and be sure to check out the story we ran about the Code Talkers in the February 1989 issue of Arizona Highways.