Chester Nez was barely out of his teens when he joined the Marines in a role that would help the United States and its allies win World War II, a role that stayed secret for decades.
Nez was one of 29 members of the Navajo tribe that developed a military communications code based on the Navajo language. It was that same language that Nez and his friends were forbidden to speak when they were students at government-run boarding schools for Native American children.
Military authorities chose Navajo as a code language because it was almost impossible for a non-Navajo to learn and had no written form. It was the only code the Japanese never managed to crack. The code talkers themselves were forbidden from telling anyone about it - not their fellow Marines, not their families - until it was declassified in 1968.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send Feedback | Subscribe