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Chester Nez





06/04/2014, SANTA FE, NM, U.S.A.

Chester Nez was a remarkable human being. As a Navajo he displayed his patriotism during the Second World War as a U.S. Marine as one of the original 29 Code Talkers. He was recruited for service at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school to which he was sent as a boy. It was Mr. Nez’s opportunity and determination to proudly distinguish himself and maintain his heritage for his nation. Chester Nez was born on January 23, 1921.

He explained that he “wanted to leave the reservation; to see the other people, the way they lived, the way they carried on. To see something different. And on top of that, I wanted to do something for my country. To defend my country and my people – all the Native American Indians.”

Chester Nez with the other 28 Navajo recruits towards the end of their training got this explanation: “this major took us into a great big room, and told us, ‘You people are going to develop a code in your own language.’ Mr. Nez described the process they used as very thorough and democratic: “…somebody suggested a name – a certain creature or a bird – anything like that. …We would all talk about it – this is how this thing lives, this is how this thing is, hunts, this is how this thing flies, stuff like that.” Words that were chosen to be used as code were not written down, just memorized.

The first 12 Code Talkers including Mr. Nez were sent to the Pacific Theater with the 1st Marine Division. Mr. Nez and his fellow Code Talkers encoded, relayed, and decoded command and control information to one another, and to Marine Corps leadership. Information exchanged talked about ration and ammunition supplies, messages about where to lay down firepower, casualties, etc.

It was Navajo code that notified the Pacific command that the Marines had planted the American flag there on Mount ‘dibeh (sheep), no-dah-ih (Ute), gah (rabbit), tkin (ice), shush (bear), wol-la-chee (ant), moasi (cat), lin (horse), yeh-hes (itch),” : S-U-R-I-B-A-C-H-I.

Mr. Nez told the story of the Code Talkers by traveling around the United States to teach people about the Code Talkers’ important contribution to WWII. He said: “I like for the younger generation to know about the Code Talkers, to know how we used the Navajo language to win the war in the South Pacific.”

On July 26, 2001, over 100 families were invited to the United States Capitol “to represent the Code Talkers in Washington, DC.” Mr. Nez and his fellow Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their WWII service. Mr. Nez recalled: “we got our Gold Medal from the President (George W. Bush) himself. And I think that was one of the greatest things that ever happened to us, you know, to finally shake hands in recognition.”

In 2011, he wrote “ Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII” with Judith Schiess Avila.

Mr. Nez’s service to America included: “four years in the South Pacific, two years in the Korean War, and two years as a reserve.” Chester Nez died on June 4, 2014. He was 93. Ahéhee’


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