Decoding history: A World War II Navajo Code Talker in his own words
Chester Nez was a World War II Navajo Code Talker, but wasn't allowed to share the secret for decades.
December 4th, 2011
05:01 AM ET

Decoding history: A World War II Navajo Code Talker in his own words

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.

Nez and his fellow code talkers found themselves in the very thick of the battlefield, transmitting and receiving messages about troop movements, enemy artillery locations, and calls for food, equipment or medical supplies as bullets whizzed past their ears and shrapnel sliced into the earth near their foxholes. Nez served during some of the most brutal engagements in the South Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Guam, Peleliu and Bougainville. They worked in teams of two, one relaying and receiving messages while the other cranked the portable radio and listened for errors in transmission. In the heat of battle, they might be at work for 24 nonstop hours, cramped into small holes dug in the earth.

“When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn’t just curl up in a shelter,” Nez wrote in his book. “We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move.”

Now 90 years old, Nez is the only one of the original 29 Code Talkers still living, and his recently published autobiography, “Code Talker,” written with Judith Schiess Avila, is the first and only written in a Code Talker’s own words.

CNN: Why was it important for you to tell your own story instead of someone writing it for you?

Nez: I told my story at length to Judith Avila, and she recorded it and then wrote it down. It was important that the story come from me, since I want this memoir to accurately depict my Navajo people and the contributions made by the code talkers. Judith and I reviewed the book “Code Talker” together many times to ensure this accuracy.

CNN: What do you think is the central lesson of this book?

Nez: My wartime experiences developing a code that utilized the Navajo language taught how important our Navajo culture is to our country. For me that is the central lesson: that diverse cultures can make a country richer and stronger.

CNN: How did becoming a code talker change your life?

Nez: Our Navajo code was one of the most important military secrets of World War II. The fact that the Marines did not tell us Navajo men how to develop that code indicated their trust in us and in our abilities. The feeling that I could make it in both the white world and the Navajo world began there, and it has stayed with me all of my life. For that I am grateful.

CNN: What Navajo word best describes your life, and why?

Nez: Hozoji - that is a word with religious implications meaning kindness and good will.  It is part of the Right Way of life – something I have tried to live by. [The “Right Way” is a tenet of traditional Navajo spiritual belief that says a person must find balance between individuals, self, and one’s world, and live in harmony with nature.]

CNN: Do any of your grandchildren or great-grandchildren speak Navajo?

Nez: My own children do not speak Navajo, although my daughter-in-law, Rita Nez, speaks it well. We enjoy talking Navajo to each other. My great-grandson, Emery, took a class in Navajo in summer school. I liked that.

CNN: Do you think the contributions of Native Americans get enough recognition in this country?

Nez: Yes, I think our country is doing much better at recognizing the contributions of all cultures. The recognition of the code talkers came late, but it has been good for my Navajo people. I hope that this type of recognition continues across cultures.

CNN: Is there anything you’d like readers to know that I haven’t asked about?

Nez: In developing our code, we were careful to use everyday Navajo words, so that we could memorize and retain the words easily. I think that made our job easier, and I think it helped us to be successful in the heat of battle. Still, I worried every day that I might make an error that cost American lives. But our code was the only code in modern warfare that was never broken. The Japanese tried, but they couldn’t decipher it. Not even another Navajo could decipher it if he wasn’t a code talker.

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Filed under: Education • Ethnicity • History • Native Americans • Race • Who we are
soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. robert tradorfski

    First, I would like to thank him for his service in WW2.

    Second, all VA installations have push 2 for Spanish, How come there is no push 2 (or 3) for Navaho, a language that was spoken by veterans in ww2?

    December 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kirk

    I'm Native American; Navajo in fact. Its always nice to see my great great grandfathers fellow marine brothers; get recognition of the war.. I too thank my grandfather everyday for the life he had taught my bothers and sisters I.. Nowadays they teach the Navajo language in schools on the reservation.
    Where my family is from; it may seem like a third world country to you; but to me its home, u know. Home where you and ur family starts its values, starts it path.. But, for every Native out there u will always return to the things u love the most.. the land in which Family was brought upon. I love it there.. Will return someday.. !! YAY ... Thank u.. <3

    December 7, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • BigIrish63

      Please give your thanks to your grandfather for me as well. Let him know that thousands of people appreciate what he and his Navajo brothers sacrificed for this country. Thank you to for telling us about him. Semper Fi

      December 13, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mark Long

    More universities and schools should do more to promote the original American languages. the University of Oklahoma does a fair job in encouraging students to choose the native languages but they can do morel. When I was working on a second degree the language requirements had changed to where I had to take 3 semesters of foreign languages. I naturally chose Spanish due to the modern day invasion of the language on America. But OU had a policy that if you took a native language, you only had to take 1 semester of it to satisfy the requirement. The problem in my time there was that you had to take the classes at a remote tribal complex. It was next to impossible for me to drive 60 miles, 3 times a week just to take 1, 1 hour class. It was much more feasible for me to take the 1 hour Spanish class on campus. Universities should do more to offer the classes on campus. I would have chosen to take Cherokee, Comanche, or Creek languages if they had been offered on campus.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • hj06

      When I graduated in 2006 from the School of Arts and Sciences, native languages were offered on campus and you were required to take a minimum of 3 semesters (9 credit hours).

      December 14, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. sajjpar

    Inspiring story, an amazing contributrion to american history and frEedom

    December 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandy

      It is something to be proud of that the Navajo helped the U..S. People of all cultures in the U.S. thank you.

      December 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Victor Schramm

    Awesome! I will definitely be checking this out! Great story of the human journey and learning to be a better person for a better cause. 3 cheers for all the WW2 vets that helped bring an end to tyranny and senseless bloodshed. We need more like them now.

    December 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. E Reed

    How wonderful to see the story of this American hero from WWII, to whom we owe so much; who was forbidden to speak his native language in his government run schoolroom and yet thru his native language and his bravery helped turn the war in the Pacific. And how tragic to have him juxtaposed with a picture and video of Newt Gingrich talking about making English the "official" US language. Nez's quote is poetic –
    "My wartime experiences developing a code that utilized the Navajo language taught how important our Navajo culture is to our country. For me that is the central lesson: that diverse cultures can make a country richer and stronger."

    December 5, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bart Cleveland

    If not for the perseverance of Judy Avila, this book would have never happened. She came to love the Chester and his family and would not give up until a publisher said yes. We are just beginning to see the incredible importance of what she did on behalf of an American hero.

    December 5, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. white buffalo TDH

    Sir / Elder
    I am breaking my own personal code of WWII German torture that was imported to UCLA and Torrance Memorial Hospital after and which still contiues today...2011...

    You have inspired me to 'never give up' and to defend/fight w honor. I am humbled by your spirited action and grace. As the grandson of a great white healer Dr. / Chief Edward Hitchin of the Ogalala Sioux Nation, Alberta, I thank you and your relations....for your courage. To the light....WB
    umbuntu / namaste / 777 / chi ho

    December 5, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joe

    Humbling and thankful

    December 5, 2011 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. Doc

    To Chester Nez, his fellow "Code Talkers" and the countless other Native Americans who served and are now serving their country, God bless all of you and may we always remember your contributions and your sacrifice. Your story humbles us.

    December 5, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. neuron2003

    I grew up in Phoenix down the road from an “Indian School” but in my HS of 3,500+ there were NO Native American students. I hiked to Supai in Havasu Canyon as well as other remote destinations in rez territory, and saw first hand the miserable poverty that our fellow Americans must endure. This article points out, with good cause, the contributions of ONE of the various nations, but fails to note that we have beaten that and other nations to death, forced them into refugee camps, decimated their culture, and left them to rot. Shame, shame, shame. Based on this background, I feel for the Palestinians, but that’s a thread for another forum. Manifest Destiny be damned.

    December 5, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Randon

      Hey! At least if do well in our studies, we can more easily get into Stanford. This means that we do not have to be poor forever. .

      December 5, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Kirk Tallman

      I'm Native American; Navajo in fact. Its always nice to see my great great grandfathers fellow marine brothers; get recognition of the war.. I too thank my grandfather everyday for the life he had taught my bothers and sisters I.. Nowadays they teach the Navajo language in schools on the reservation.
      Where my family is from; it may seem like a third world country to you; but to me its home, u know. Home where you and ur family starts its values, starts it path.. But, for every Native out there u will always return to the things u love the most.. the land in which Family was brought upon. I love it there.. Will return someday.. !! YAY 😀 ... Thank u.. <3

      December 7, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. kenny

    While Newt Gingrich wants English to be the official language of this nation, Mr. Gingrich has an even bigger problem. He doesn't understand English. The only language he speaks is "BS".

    December 4, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Elizabeth

    I am glad to see the written language. I heard another story from a Navajo, that he was not allowed to teach his children the Navajo language because it would violate military codes. I hope that the great service that the Navajo have given to our country and the world is never forgotten, but I also hope that the language has not been killed by the military rules.

    December 4, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Young Bear

    I am from the Meskawiki tribe who live on a "settlement" in Tama Iowa. meaning that the tribe purchased their own land. There also were code talkers from our tribe also in the war, Some of them were my relatives, the last one died around 7 years ago. There were more than just one tribe enlisted to be code talkers during the war.

    December 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. livedwiththem

    I would like to thank all the service men of every branch of every war for their service. Without you I would not ne able to live the life that I am able to live. To me it doesn't matter if Mr. Nez is Navajo, White or any other race.....he served HIS country and MY country! Now to the "bleeding hearts". There aren't any native Americans left. The first Native Americans were the Anasazi. They looked much like Europeans do. The Navajo came across the Bearing Strait from Mongolia after the Anasazi did. As far as what "whiteman" did to them........its nothing more than what any other culture did to another culture. I lived with the Navajo and the Hopi for nearly 20 years. I grew up with them, went to school with them and they had much more provided to them and much more opportunity put forth to them than I did. So before you say the poor poor Native American.......learn the real story and learn why they live the way they do and why they choose to live that way.

    December 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nea

      The Anasazi were not "white" but the forefathers the ancestors of the Pueblo Peoples. More specifically:

      " Recent advances in technology have allowed the extraction of mitochondrial DNA from prehistoric skeletal material. Haplogroup B4'5 is thought to have been common among the Anasazi of the ancient U.S. Southwest. Haplogroup B4'5 appears to have been a fixture in the Southwest at least since the introduction of agriculture to the region from Mesoamerica 2,500 to 3,500 years ago. In some areas the haplogroup is found in 100% of the Native American population and sometimes multiple populations share the identical forms of the haplogroup; for example, a single variant of haplogroup B4'5 is shared by the Navajo, Zuni, Jemez and Seri groups, as well as others. "

      Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can_DNA_be_used_to_link_the_Anasazi_to_current_native_American_peoples#ixzz1fnzm5iuu

      December 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Sean

    And here we have a fine example that the Dine launguage is not dead

    December 4, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Greatful

    Mr. Nez. .You truely epitomize a great American Citizen who in spite of being robbed of your land, language, dignity, religion, and all else by selfless unthoughtful Americans, believed in good and helping others who despitefully used your people in a land that belonged to you first. As an American citizen I have ever been ashamed of how we treated your people. I wish to personally apologize to you and your people for the awful way you and your people were treated by my forefathers. I would have stood up for you and your people had I been living in those terrible times. What shame I feel for the way you were treated. Thank you got your love of this beautiful land and the people who treated you so badly. You truly are a GREAT AMERICAN HERO! It would be a honor to meet you and shake your hand and personally tell you what a wonderful man you are. America needs more wonderful people like you. God bless you Mr. Nez.

    December 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Raven woman

    Gunalcheesh Mr. Nez. Now CNN – time to share more Native history. Tired of hearing about other groups and ignoring Natives.

    December 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      I agree; there are special interest stories about all kinds of people around the world, but almost never about people whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years.

      December 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  19. JP

    My daughter just asked me what I want for Christmas. Mr. Nez' book is my choice. I am looking forward to reading it.

    December 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  20. jeff frey

    Semper Fidelis the museun at the interstate 40 reststop coming into New Mexico from Arizona is really good. the only thing it lacks is a USMC flag to hang along side the Stars and Strips. i am working on trying to obtain one for this place and my fellow Marines.

    December 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  21. dnak

    And U.S. interference ruined their culture just as the U.S. gov't destroyed the black family.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnharry

      dnak, yeah good luck with that one

      December 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • no more filbert

      You mean the blacks who sold blacks before the U.S. was ever formed?

      December 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |

        we are talking about the USA, not over country.

        that line i getting old, the only race that was enslave in the usa were blacks.

        Again, we are talking about the USA, not other countries.

        December 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Boyd

    Amazing! Here is a native person who obviously lives "Hozoji"–kindness, good will, harmony–and who put his life on the line in WWII in spite of the fact that European settlers here forbade his people to speak their language(s), removed them from their families, forced Christianity down their throats, stole their land(s) all in an attempt at genocide. Luckily this failed though its scars run very, very deep. Thank you, Mr. Nez.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • augustghost

      Well said

      December 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC and jojo

      "Attempt at genocide?" Someone hasn't read their history. It was about land, and nothing more. Genocide is very explicitly about race.

      December 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • Interested

        It appears you haven't ready your American history. I realize very little is dedicated to the American Indian or the atrocities that were done to many of the tribes, but yes, genocide was included. And it was specifically to Natives, not one tribe in particular.

        December 6, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
      • mike zaldivar

        Genocide? yes Genocide! You kill the race to get the land, understand now!?!?!

        December 14, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  23. Chris

    I surely hope all of these MEN were awarded the Silver Star. The reality behind what they did, and the numerous lives they saved is absolutely incredible. We are indebted to you you all as a Nation.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I think the Medal of Honor is more in line with the award they should have received. Out of millions that served and died only 29 could do one of the most important aspects on a battlefield- communication.

      December 4, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sapokni

        Totally agree!!! Although very, very late...better than never!!

        December 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  24. works4me

    Ahxéhee' (Thank you-Navajo)

    December 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  25. works4me

    Ahxéhee' (Thank you- Navajo)

    December 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  26. ENglish only?

    And Newt Gingrich wants to make English the official language. This would obligate people to not speak any other language than English which would make other languages extinct. The government has no idea that if they make people speak only one language they are rendering other languages extinct in the same manner the government was trying to do with the Navajo community. THere would have been no "code talkers" if the gov had had their way. The gov only cares about other languages when its convenient to them.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      You are misinformed. Making English the official language will not eliminate other languages. Even the liberal countries of the EU each has their language as the official language. Stop the fear mongering and realize that many kids are being left behind because they are not learning English like they should. You are doing them a disservice. Having an official language does not limit enyone from learning or using other languages. Think of how many $ are being spent in this country to have everyhting in English and Spanish. Those $ would be better spent in making sure all people can speak English. The return to the country would be enormous.

      December 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
      • mike zaldivar

        So here we go again, It's all about the MONEY!!! Have you no DIGNITY??????

        December 14, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Well navaho is not the only thing that will be extict. We will all be speaking spanish in a 100 years.

      December 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sean


        December 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • steve

        we all won't be around in a 100 years

        December 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnharry

      means the department of motor vehicles does not have to waste money printing handouts in Hmong, Sanskrit and Farsi
      English only do you speak it ?

      December 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Gingrich and millions of others understand english only laws will go a long way in helping immigrants climb the social and economic ladder. And Gingrich and millions of other people have no desire to erase foreign languages. This story is a good example why.

      December 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      As Ted says, making English official language does not disallow other languages to be learned and taught. English is my 4th language. It just means that the IRS will make forms only in English. And yes, if immigrate to US you should learn English. There are thousands of languages in the world. we can't have in the subway the sign "Do not spit on the floor" in 1000 languages. Who will pay for it?

      December 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • jim

        We have two different Jims.

        December 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • mike zaldivar

        Don't spit on the floor? I think COMMON SENSE dictates that subject!!!

        December 14, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  27. Grace

    I actually was fortunate enough to hear Mr. Nez speak in one of my university courses several years ago. It was so interesting and inspiring to hear him speak! After he was finished speaking we were able to ask questions. I waited until class was dismissed and went down to the stage, shook his hand, and thanked him myself for what he and the other code talkers did for our nation.I am very glad that he has written this book and the MEN THAT WERE HERE FIRST are finally getting to tell their story word for word. Thank you again Mr. Nez

    December 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Behrooz

    Chester Nez and his 29 friends from Navajo helped the world out of WWII mess! Congratulations! They helped to create a better today for all of us, regardless of the mistakes in the past, let's all celebrate the forgiveness, cooperations and team work. God bless you, Allah bless us all and Allah bless America. Long live Nez and his tribe......The Navajo

    December 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  29. DENNA

    Thank you, Chester Nez and all code talkers who served this nation so bravely.

    December 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Elizabeth Shatley

    I would also like to say that it is very sad that the Navaho language is no longer being used. This should be part of their heritage that should never be done away with. I would hope enough of the Navaho that still knows the language could teach the younger generation and never let it die.
    Nez, you were such a handsome man!

    December 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I live in the Navajo Nation, as oppose to on the rez... The Navajo Language is on the decline but it is still in use and is taught in an immersion program at the Navajo school near us. I too hope the return to the use of the launguge and a return to the culture will take strong root.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Elizabeth Shatley

    If it had not been for the "Code Talkers", just think of all the lives that would have been lost. I personally would like to thank Nez for him and his team for the major contribution and sacrafice they made for mankind. All American Indians are a proud people and it is a shame that they were treated so badly in the beginning. Thank you again Nez, God's speed!

    December 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  32. gramma nance

    Apleasure to read this article about Mr. Nez and learn more of his many contributions to our country. What a wonderful book this will be! Thank you Mr. Nez...you make me proud.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Nate

    Their sacrament and most Holy things are made illegal for no other purpose than to attack their culture, they are murdered and enslaved, yet schools do not teach Native American slavery or persecution. Yet despite all of this they made sacrifices for this country and defended our 'freedoms' that we take for granted today and let policy makers walk all over. Still to this day these people struggle and we push them off the little bit of land they have fought to retain. Policy makers want to take away everything from them and eradicate their way of life. We should be defending them and making sure that we do what we can to help preserve their culture and ways.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  34. abby in Texas

    How do you thank these people who did so much, even after their people were treated so badly for so long by the federal government?

    December 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      Educate yourself and you will learn that still to this day they are persecuted and have to fight to retain what little they have left. The land they were 'given' is taken away so that the resources that remain can be raped for profit. Their land is not really theirs, it is owned by the federal government who essentially lets them 'borrow' it. Still to this day their most holy things are criminalized to stop their religious practices and further eradicate their culture and ways. Yet you do not see them raping the land for profit, they respect life and function within this world in a way that benefits it instead of destroying it.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sean

        Nate, where do you live? Have you been watching the Window Rock corruption?

        December 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
      • John D

        Well Said

        December 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  35. r

    Read "Code Talker" and "Unbroken" and you will get an amazing account of our heroic soldiers during WWII.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dodger

      Sean, You live in Wonderland? And your Folsum Man and Kenniwick Man are just theories, so quit blowing smoke.

      December 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sean

        Not theroy, science proven by carbon dating.

        December 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  36. 0311

    Thank you and Semper Fidelis Mr. Nez, you and your brother Code Talkers are true heroes.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Keith

    Thank you for your contribution, Chester and all the rest of the Code Talkers!!

    I can only assume you don't live in AZ. I'm pretty sure AZ rounded up and arrested all the Navajos for being unable to provide proof of citizenship. 🙂

    December 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • DENNA

      Haha. I love it. I can only wonder what Native Americans feel when "real 'murikans" whine about illegal immigration. I just think that the whole thing is coming full circle. The original settlers took this country from the Indians and now they are iin danger of losing it to the "illegal immigrants". The original settlers WERE illegal immigrants.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sean

        You should read about the Folsum Man and the Kenniwick Man, then tell me who was here first?

        December 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Natrldiver

      I believe that they were from New Mexico. They have a museum dedicated to their service and the people there.

      I am appalled at how some of the comments here are a ploy to detract from the real story. Yes they were Native Americans, but they served 'their country" What many fail to understand is that they were not drafted. They volunteered and served proudly like any soldier at that time. Like any soldier who served with honor, they are very proud of their contributions.

      Thank you Chester Nez for your dedicated service to this country. While many may not believe in it, it is your service and sacrifice by you and your brothers who helped protect those freedoms many take for granted today. Let us never forget !

      December 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • National Jester

        There is a museum in Arizona, I've been there. Never been to the one in New Mexico. A woman in town pointed toward a man and told us, "he was a code talker." very cool. Too bad there is so much poverty and alcohol/drug abuse on the Reservations. Wish I had a way to fix that problem in repayment.

        December 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Howard

    The sad part is that in spite of the enormous contribution Native Americans and most other minorities made, they were treated like 2nd class citizens when they got home!

    December 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Thats true for a lot of minorities. We owe a lot to African American GIs as well, lest we ended up speaking a number of foreign languages in defeat(inc vietnamese). People with fear based prejudices, should think twice before speaking in haste of our melting pot.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sean

        And the Irish-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Italian-Americans, India-Americans, and the rest of the folks that legally immigrate here in the face of discrimination here and at home.

        December 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose S.

      I agree, these folks put their life on the line and are fighting for freedoms they cannot enjoy. They are stuck in reservations while the "pale face" still takes all of the Casino Earnings by briding some appointed "chieften". Some things never change. Good ol' U S of A. makes me laugh. Geronimo had it right.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • m cramer

        what the hell you talking about? Natives aren't forced to live on any reservation or anywhere in the U.S. today. Natives have all the same rights as all Americans. Casino money is used to benefit natives on their reservations and not given to "chiefs". Get some facts before you state false comments.

        December 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Littlethunderwoman

      They still are. Have you been to Pine Ridge? What about the Paiutes...their Rez is where most of the nuclear wastes goes.Not all casino money goes to the tribe(s). There is a persentage that still goes to the company that runs it. Some tribes do Own them but not all.

      December 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Speaker07

    Mr. Nez: Thank you for your important contribution to the USA. It is unfortunate that Native Americans and their decendents have been the recipient of theft of their land and abuse and discrimination since the British and Europeans arrived in North America. However, this is typical of the British, Dutch, and other Europeans that colonized the world. These "Christians" did not behave or conduct themselves in a "Christian" manner.....the slaves of Africa can attest to that also.

    Thank you again and Semper Fi!!!!!!

    December 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Bruce

    PBS aired a special about these men a few years ago. They are credited with saving many ten's of thousands of lives. They are true hero's.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Dave. W

    GET SOME MARINE!!! Oooh-Rah

    December 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Frmr. Cpt.

    As we say in the Navy "Well done".

    December 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  43. sitting bull

    no wonder these white americans talk like kings,when after all crimes against indians,these navajos still helped them.what a shame.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Black

      "Native American" not Indians.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • sitting bull

        what a respect!is "american" a native term?

        December 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  44. sarah'satool!

    maybe she should attend her college and get an education because she's an idiot!

    god bless these men for what they did and the American lives they saved!!

    December 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Russ

    Their code is not necessary today because of computer code and encryption. Weapon systems also need to recognize and translate code instantly, not have it translated by a human first. Third, any code that is translated by a human puts it at risk of being leaked to someone else. Computer codes can have multiple levels of encryption so it is impossible for anyone to decipher it except another computer which is programmed to decipher it. The world of secret codes has moved to a whole new level since WWII. Remember then there weren't any TV's, computers, cell phones, or electronics. Just tube based radios which were carried in backpacks. That was it.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Black

      What they had worked in WW 2. Sure, no they did not have computers back then. If it was not for the Navajo a lot more people would have died. Don't take this away from them by bring up all this new age stuff.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Issac

      I would say its the other way around. Hard to kidnap/bribe a fully vetted scientist/programmer. Much easier to steal the programs.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose S.

      Someone drank the coolaid! Look at wikileaks and other scenarios where computer codes are constantly being broke. Even a computer needs to be encrypted by a HUMAN. We don't have this kind of loyalty in the armed forces anymore..mostly due to unjust wars and profiteering. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Private military out there. Who would trust these guys???? They are not bound by any legal code.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  46. richard

    the biggest proudest tribe of all is the USMC!

    December 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  47. richard

    the corps is a tribe, too. a very prous one. semper fi.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Jezzie06

    Who cares where we all came from!! we are here now...together. so what if someone is a different color or speaks a different language. What Nez and the others did saved Lives. in my book they are heros and i thank them ALL. so should you all.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  49. bubinksi

    Navajo Code Talkers ruled in WW2. They should bring them back in force for all the branches of the military today. It'll drive our enemies insane trying to decode them. I doubt if they could decode them today.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Chuck Steak

    Thank you for your service Mr. Nez, and may God bless you!!

    December 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  51. cacique

    What an excellent example of the many advantages diversity has, and the importance of maintaining the peoples' cultures and native languages alive.

    Gingrich should have this in mind as he continues to push his case for making English the official language. English is the language of the land already, but it must allow all other languages Americans speak and cultivate at home to coexist.
    The diverse languages we speak, read, write, and understand are national treasures that must not be lost in the name of a misunderstood nationalism. Let's all become bilinguals, at least.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie Garreau

      I am a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. What you said was absolutely right on an appropriate. Respect for diversity and culture is an absolute necessity and this article is a great example. Native people have loved and supported this government and have not always been give their due respect for service or the fact that they are the first americans. Thank you.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • cacique

        Yes, ma'am.
        We should make every effort to preserve our language and culture. To empower ourselves to maintain the vitality of our soul's first means of expression, while allowing our adoptive mother tongue to evolve naturally as the combination of the two will provide us with stereo-view of our surroundings. Congratulations to those who were able to learn more than two or three languages. Salud!

        December 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Chuck Mills

    What an honor to read your story Chester. Thank you for all that you and your fellow code talkers did for us all.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Kish

    Mr. Nez, thank you for your service. I'm glad you and your culture are getting the recognition you deserve.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  54. judie deeds

    I met a code talker at the airport in Ohio. He had gone there because his granddaughter was attending OSU. Great American and super to visit with. I hope he is still alive.
    Thanks for all you guys did.

    December 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • DUH

      Obviously the man you met isn't alive.... If you could read properly, it says that Nez is the last living Code Talker. Guess people just comment on crap they don't read....

      December 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • xvet

        The article says he is the only living member of the original 29. Since the Navy trained about 400 hundred of them there may be more than just one left.
        Thanks for your service Chester, and hopefully we will remember the sacrifices made by you and all who served our country.


        December 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
      • m cramer

        not so fast, Mr. Nez is the last living "codetalker" of the original 29 codetalkers (The first group to enlist), There were hundreds of Navajo's trained and that served during WW2 .

        December 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Interested

        He could have been someone from a different tribe who was used an a code talker too. The Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma had code talkers as well. Other tribes did to in these wars.

        December 6, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  55. Aaron the Ogre

    Dude, Chester you are awesome. When I first heard of code talkers from my Navaho friends when I was in high school, I was blown away. I still am. Thank you for everything. I am excited for your upcoming book and will share it with the high school students I now teach.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  56. popcorn

    In the future years. What is look like? Pentagon's computer system won't communicate other computer systems, Ten Commandments, and Government covered up PLANET-X. Ten Commandments teaches people not to worship Stranger God from another planet.

    I fear our technology isn't advance than Planet-X. What if there's a new Christopher columbus arrival and come here with new religion and powerful weapons? Columbus massacre wasn't myth. I fear the future war might be advance.

    So I have to spend more time re-educated myself with Isaac Newton's 2060 and trying to decipher Atlantis and Philosopher's Stone to make Aliens turn into Stone Rock.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly


      December 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rainman

      PopCorn is talking his own code talker language.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • dt

      Just a suggestion – never drink and post..

      December 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • code breaker

      after a fifth of tequila I was able to break popcorns code. It actually wasn't that hard. He is speaking standard drunkenesse.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlye

      Popcorn-you don't have to educate yourself on Stone freeze, there's an app for that now. Google it, then download it on to your iphone.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  57. SFC Mike

    Nice troll, now crawl back under your bridge where you belong.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  58. mizh

    I can't believe a teacher (Albro) would post a comment so filled with misspelled words. The correct spellings are: essentially, dependent, self-contained. Also, Albro — aren't you supposed to be making a difference for the Navajo if you are a teacher on the rez? I am glad this country is finally giving the Code Talkers their due before they all leave the earth. Thank you.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • m cramer

      Albro is pretty damn ignorant for a teacher to generalize all Native Americans, then idiots like surfergeorge immediately believe ignorant false statements. I have news for all you people, Natives are graduating from college, serving in the Armed Forces, and have jobs, pay taxes etc, in others words thriving!!!!! Go out and visit a reservation before believing generalizations of a proud people.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • xvet

        I served with an American native in the 60's he was a college graduate but because his tribe had never had a treaty with the US he wasn't allowed to become an officer. Weird huh? At least that is what he said and I have no reason to doubt his word, a great guy.

        December 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Augustine

    It's all over your head, isn't it? Moron.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Jim

    I look forward to reading the book. It's too bad Hollywood did such a lackluster interpretation of this important story.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  61. r.ortiz

    thumbs up to the native americans, they are the real americans,thankyou chester for your service god bless you.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  62. John A

    Well done Mr Nez and thank you. One of the many we owe our way of life and freedoms to.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  63. petemg

    I have got to give these brave men a big Thank You for what you did. I am proud of the fact that you kept your Native tongue even after you were forbidden to speak it. You were and are part of a proud group of people. I am Caucasian who really enjoys history. Knowing what has happened in late history and knowing how it can have an effect even in our times. Also keep up with the history you pass down from generation to generation. I will have to get the book.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Shelley Farrell

    ha haaa hahha! yes, indeedy!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Peter

    Native Americans are from Asia!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • petemg

      Does it matter where they came from. We are all a party of a bigger picture.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Yes, they came over the land-bridge between Russia and Alaska that was present tens of thousands of years ago.


      December 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Willyd

      Yes, they came from Asia across the land bridge eons ago. They predate us by tens of thousands of years, yet still no recognition. No respect. They deserve better.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • linkspast

      @ Peter. And we all came from Africa. your point?

      December 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • FParanha

      Both native Americans and European immigrant Americans originally came from Africa.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Regular americans like you (peter) and me are from Europe. The native americans were here for 10-20 thousand years before the europeans came here 400-500 years ago. By the way we are all part oof one big family out of africa 60-80 thousand years ago.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      I am Apache and always will be. Hmm I get the answer all the time that we are from asia. Science will believe that to be true and it's also true to believe that we came from apes in africa. Sure these are science facts but the matter of fact is we were in america first. The article is about how code talkers helped win WWII. Yes we are a proud people and if I talked to you in my language you wouldn't know what I am saying. My religion as an Apache teaches us different on how we came to be, like the bible teaches the mass people in american how they came. Is it fact no, but it's belief. Now we are going to discuss the bible but not my point you can say we came from asia, sure, but did we all come from two people and should treat each other equal. I am proud of the code talkers and all they did for OUR country.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • cjc

        You put it very well Fred. Very well indeed. I completely agree.

        December 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yago

      at the end, in one way or other, we all came from Africa. Some sooner or later. What matters is those who first master the land, the rivers and the prairies. Those who where mold by the geography of this nation. Those who were scarify and ignore.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • PlayfulDreamer

        According to whom? The problem is in how we want to define who was first, who was second, who doesn't belong here or who does. Maybe instead of dealing with those definitions, we could all agree that we are here today–for it's today that matters in the grand scheme of things.

        December 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Yago

    I love those stories. I hope one day the United State Military and Government recognize what the Native Americans endured during the last half of the 19th Century was Genocide and Ethnical Cleanse. It's time to heal old wounds and recognize errors.
    Also, many Basque people were used as a code during WW II by the United Sates. being the Basque Language original in it;s nature and with no relation to any modern language making it ideal as a code.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sapokni

      Fortunately, this honorable person's story was told and thankfully noticed and recorded before it was too late. We do not have any of the Choctaw code talkers of WW I left...and only minimal info of that nation's contributions to American history were ever noted. Native Americans continue the long tradition as successful members of our current military yet they continue to lack the recognition their careers have earned. Equality of the Native Americans in our diverse military culture still has glass ceilings for promotion to break despite the years they have tried. Maybe someday, we could even have a Native American president...just a dream?

      December 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Tim

    Mr. Nez Thank You for your service. You are truly an american hero!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  68. jimmyray

    Semer Fi. Marine.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diann Gillesie

      It's "Semper Fi". If you are qoing to use Latin, use it correctly!

      December 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Goodguy1

    American Indians are tough people and super proud. They are the best that our country has, and they will sooner or later get full respect and appreciation. They are numero uno in my book. I am a former Marine and their commitment to a country that SHAT down their necks is something to be talked about. GO Chester Nez and Ira Hayes. Thank you for your service. LOVE YOU!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albro

      I am a teacher at a reservation school, and it is sad to say that the "tough", resilient, stalwart Native American culture is essetnially dead. They have since become a largely sedentary, dependant self-cntained welfare culture. Chester Nez came froma culture that no longer exists.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • Willyd

        As a teacher at a reservation school, I would say you have an opportunity to inspire. The culture, while it may evovle, should not be allowed to die. We, as a country, need to recognize the heritage of those who have been here longer than we.

        December 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
      • Goodguy1

        Sad, true and sad.

        December 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • m cramer

        Dude, quit generalizing Native Americans- I know for a fact native Americans work hard to feed their families, Many thousands served honorably and are serving honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces today. Native Americans have the highest ratio of Soldiers of any ethnic minority serving in the U.S. military.

        December 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • Surfer George

        After the treatment that Native Americans received at the hands of the "superior" White Man, from the time they/we first set foot on the soils of this land all the way to the present, is it any wonder that their collective soul, their will as a people has finally been crushed?
        In light of the atrocities perpetuated upon them, generation after generation, it is a wonder that ANY Native American population still exists.

        In the same way that you can beat a human brain to dysfunction or significantly loser function, the treatment they received has probably left them unable (or nearly so) to revive themselves, even with the help I am sure you tried to provide.

        December 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • zoundsman

        I hung out with the "skins (they called themselves that)" in college. We got along. A few Navajos took me down to the rez
        in NM. They respect their elders like you wouldn't believe. It's something I find grotesquely lacking in today's American
        culture in the "Get out of the way- kick to the curb" mentality.

        December 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sapokni

        The US military is an excellent means for Native Americans to leave any reservation and launch successful careers...as long as both men and women realize there are glass ceilings yet to be broken in all Corps of all departments. An example in public records show that no Native American has ever been promoted above the grade of O-5 as an Air Force nurse. Can't find any Native American female fighter pilots...yet. In fact officer promotions are minimal across all ranks and all jobs that reflect any top leadership position yet the rank of "Chief" is the top Enlisted promotion grade. Interesting.

        December 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Willyd

      'Nuff said!

      December 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
      • Aaron the Ogre

        No way Willy:

        More needs to be said from an important people and culture. I live in the intermountain west. I went to high school and college with many members of the Navaho nation. Sometimes it is as if they live in silence. There were times in Am Lit classes where students would ask why should we study texts written by long dead tribal voices (having no modern influence on current culture–their opinion, not mine) when the class had Navaho students sitting in it.

        America needs to to wake-up and listen to more of these voices and not think of reservations as welfare states or gambling destinations. The very nature of American English is influenced by Native Americans as well our history, culture and nation philosophy. We need to hear more and immediately.

        Not "'nuff said!"

        December 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • m cramer

      You got it right Native Americans are tuff, Go out to the reservations and you will see a diverse people. People who comment and think all Natives are dependent on the U.S. government are complete morons and ignorant to the fact that many Natives work hard to feed their families and are proud of their heritage and culture. Go out to the reservations and try telling a proud Native his culture does not exist and you will learn the truth.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawk in Texas

      I doubt that there are but a few people out there that knows Ira Hayes. for those that don't he was one of the soldiers that raised the flag at iwo jima. and that he was apache. my own ancestors are from my fathers side cherokee. and i am a 73 year old air force veteran.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
      • m cramer

        Thanks for serving our great country. Ira Hayes (U.S.M.C.) was a member of the Pima tribe and their reservation is located near Phoenix Arizona. F.Y.I.

        December 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |