The Last Remaining Member of the Navajo Code Talkers dies
Chester Nez, 93, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was one of the original Navajo Americans who developed a code with their native language to encrypt military messages in World War 2.
Chosen from 250 Navajos, Nez was in high school and lied about his age before arriving at the Army base in Arizona for the project.
The code took words from the Navajo language, which was spoken by less than 30 non-Navajos at the time, and matched them to military terms. The Navajo word for turtle became “tank”, chicken hawk became “dive bomber” and “our mother” meant America.
Very few non-Navajos spoke the Navajo language, and even those who did couldn’t decipher the code. The Navajos trained in radio communications were walking copies of it. After the messages were read and deciphered by a Code Talker, they were immediately destroyed.
About 400 codetalkers used the cipher to relay messages sent from field telephones and radios throughout the Pacific. Messages read aloud by the code talkers were immediately destroyed.
“It’s one of the greatest parts of history that we used our own native language during World War II,” Nez said in 2010. “The Japanese did everything in their power to break the code but they never did.”
CODE TALKERS AND WARRIORS NATIVE AMERICANS AND WORLD WAR II by Tom Holm.