Last Of The Navajo 'Code Talkers' Dies At 93 | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Last Of The Navajo 'Code Talkers' Dies At 93

The last of the Navajo "Code Talkers" who used their native language as the basis of a cipher that confounded the Japanese military during World War II has died at age 93.

Chester Nez, of Albuquerque, N.M., died Wednesday of kidney failure, member station KPCC reports. He was the last of the 29 U.S. Marine Code Talkers who were the subject of the 2002 film Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage.

According to azcentral.com, Nez was in the 10th grade when he was recruited in the spring of 1942 by representatives of the the U.S. Marines, who came to his Arizona boarding school looking for Navajo speakers.

Azcentral.com says:

"The military, ferrying troops to battle sites across the Pacific, was urgently seeking an undecipherable code to transmit classified information. It had attempted to use various languages and dialects as code, but each was quickly cracked by cryptographers in Tokyo."

But the written record for Navajo was scarce and "[its] syntax and grammar were elaborate. The spoken language used tones that were difficult for an untrained ear to understand," azcentral.com writes. The code developed from Navajo ultimately proved insurmountably difficult for the Japanese to decipher.

USA Today notes: "It wasn't until 1968, when the Code Talkers operation was declassified, that the men began to receive recognition for their service. In 2001, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Other Code Talkers were awarded the Silver Medal."

Fellow code talkers Keith Little and George Smith died in 2012.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

What's A Writer Gotta Do To Get A Little Health Care Around Here?

When you're making plans to become a famous author, just remember that you're going to want health care — especially when 40 rolls around and your body is no longer made of rubber.
NPR

When Zero Doesn't Mean Zero: Trans Fats Linger In Food

One in 10 packaged foods still contains trans fats, according to a new study. The problematic oils give foods a rich taste and texture and extend shelf life, but have been linked to heart disease.
NPR

Rep. Ryan Calls For 'Culture Of Inclusion' To Tackle Poverty

Congressman and former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan discusses his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.
NPR

New Amazon Series Pilots Fall Short Of A TV Revolution

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans ranks Amazon's new batch of five series pilots, asking why none of them seem break the rules of TV quite enough to draw attention.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.