Last living Navajo Code Talker has died


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I believe Chester Nez was the last of the original class of 29. There were a few hundred overall, according to “Code Talker”, which I am currently reading.

The main character of “Code Talker” was in the second wave. He has a facebook page:

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as they do at @matthowie’s excellent MeFi place…


Thank You Mr. Nez for all you have done for all of us. We can’t repay you but you’ll be in our stories forever.

Had a Navajo roommate in college. Nice guy, but scary as hell when he talked in his sleep during nightmares.

From that experience, I often felt there was a small psychological angle to the code talkers. The Japanese would hear open communications that sounded like nothing they ever heard. Navajo can sound spooky (especially if conditioned like me and those opposing Japanese to associating it with bad memories). Add the terror of battle, and the pucker factor hits 11.

I’ve never quite understood why the Navajo went along with the code talker program.

The US government, the very organization which slaughtered, betrayed, and oppressed their people, came to them with the idea of turning their linguistic heritage into a weapon of war.

Somehow I can’t see “patriotism” being the prime motivator, for obvious reasons.

I also can’t see self interest or defense as being a convincing argument - neither Japan nor Germany had any real desire or capability to launch a trans-oceanic invasion of North America. (An insanely difficult undertaking which makes me shudder just considering it.)

And even if in some bizarro-world the Axis had been both willing and able to invade, why would the Navajo join the fight on the side of the one government in the entire equation which had committed genocide against their people?

Remember, it wasn’t until the end of the war that anyone outside the highest ranks of the Wehrmacht knew that Germany was conducting their own extermination campaign. The worst that could be said about the Third Reich or the Japanese Empire was that they were aggresive, expansionist, militant imperialists - an argument that applied equally well to the US government. If you absolutely had to choose between them, why not choose the side that didn’t have a history of betraying and murdering your people?

Or is it possible that they were merely coerced? “Hey, Navajos. You have something we want, and we have the means to take it from you. We can make your lives hell if you don’t give it to us - it’d be a shame if conditions on the reservation got worse, you know what I mean? Or if it turned out you were disloyal like those Japanese are, we might have to send you to your own little internment camps. Why make this harder than it has to be, hmm? Why not just do a little favor for us, then come home as war heroes instead?”

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no need to speculate - there are multiple books on this.

…would you mind naming some?

Because people have short memories and they were at least a generation or more removed from the times of the Indian Wars and considered themselves to be Americans (vs German or Japanese).

I’m sure there are many Jews driving BMWs and Mercedes today.


“last living” . . .

as opposed to last dead? Isn’t “living” a bit redundant?

and as far as why were the Navajo’s involved? Go to a PowWow sometime and observe how highly veterans are honored in the Native community and I think you might get a different perspective.

Hopefully no roomie talking in sleep trigger here, but for anyone wondering just how confusing as fuck Dine/Navajo is, then watch this.

there’s a reason it’s a bitch to learn (and sadly a lot of young Dine aren’t learning it enough to be fluent)

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