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Whose passing am I noting?

June 11, 2014

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Last Of The Original World War II ‘Code Talkers’ Passes On

Chester Nez (Navajo), 93, helped create a code the Japanese couldn’t break.

Chester Nez, the last of the original group of U.S. Marine Code Talkers, died Wednesday of kidney failure, according to various sources.

Nez, 93, was the author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII and the inspiration for the 2002 film Windtalkers, starring Adam Beach and Nicholas Cage.

Nez was recruited in the spring of 1942 by the U.S. Marines, who came to Arizona recruiting Navajo speakers for a top-secret mission: develop a code that the Japanese could not decipher. The Navajo language, with a difficult syntax and grammar that was difficult to understand compared to many other languages, provided the basis for a nearly unbreakable code which was instrumental during U.S. efforts in the Pacific theatre during World War II.

The language they created was made even more complicated by the ambiguous and sometimes ribald choices made by its Navajo creators, says the Washington Post:

As Nez explained in his memoir, “the Navajo word for ‘jackass’ — spelled tkele-cho-gi in our code phonetics, stood for the English letter J.”

The efforts behind the code’s creation and implementation were not fully recognized until 1968, when the nature of the operation was declassified and Nez and his fellow servicemen began to receive recognition for their service. The original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001, while other Code Talkers were awarded the Silver Medal.

“We mourn his passing but honor and celebrate the indomitable spirit and dedication of those Marines who became known as the Navajo code talkers,” the Marines said in a statement.

Credit:  Steven Phelps in Cowboys and Indians

More at navajocodetalkers.org

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Photo of a platoon of Navajo Code Talkers upon their graduation from Marine Corps recruit training in 1942

Chester Nez died on June 4, 2014 at his home near Albuquerque, NM.

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