Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Last Navajo Code Talker

On June 4, 2014, Chester Nez passed on to the Great Beyond at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age 93. He was the last remaining of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers.

He had been recruited as a teenager in 1942 by the U.S. Marine Corps and assigned to the 382nd Platoon at Camp Pendleton on the southern California coast during World War II.

The U.S. Military chose Native American Navajo as a "code" language because it was determined that the Navajo language had a certain syntax quality that was almost impossible for a non-Navajo to learn and it also has no written form.

Nez and other Code Talkers were shipped out to Guadalcanal in 1942. They worked in teams of two -- one Code Talker relaying the messages and receiving the messages, while the other Code Talker would listen for errors as he was turning the crank on the portable radio. The Japanese enemy was unable to break the code of transmitted messages to and from the field,

"That was my first combat experience, and there was a lot of suffering and a lot of the condition was real bad out there," Nez told Larry King on CNN in 2002 while promoting his book titled "Code Talker."

The Code Talkers were forbidden to tell anyone about their mission, including family and fellow Marines. At first, their Marine comrades didn't know what the specialized Navajo Indians were doing, but that changed over time when the importance of their task became apparent.

Later, Nez also saw action in Peleliu and Guam.

Nez wrote in his book, "When bombs dropped, generally we Code Talkers couldn't curl up in a shelter. We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies."

Even though the Japanese could not break the code, they were able to pinpoint the position of the transmission, causing Code Talkers to be on the move to avoid Japanese fire.

The Navajo Code Talkers were one of the most important military secrets of World War II.

Nez was discharged in 1945, but later volunteered to fight in the Korean War.

In 2001, the original 29 Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Metal by President George W. Bush

I'm writing this piece on June 15, 2014 -- Father's Day.

My father was drafted during World War II. He became an officer and flight instructor at the U.S. Army Air Force Base in Blytheville, Arkansas, where I was born. After the war, my parents moved back to their hometown of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Weston K. Burquest passed on to the Great Beyond on December 8, 2011, at age 92.

Happy Father's Day -- Rest in Peace

Quote for the Day -- "The recognition of the Code Talkers came late, but it has been good for my Navajo people." Chester Nez

Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and occasionally talks to trees.

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