Today, we mourn the passing of Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez.
Nez, 93, died June 4 of kidney failure. He was the last of the “Original 29” code talkers, who developed the code using the Navajo language during World War II that the Japanese were never able to break.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly proclaimed that flags across the Navajo Nation will be flown at half-staff in Nez’s honor from sunrise June 5, to sunset June 8.
Nez, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, saw combat as a Navajo Code Talker at the battles of Guadalcanal, Guam, Peleiu and Bogainville during World War II, and again saw combat during the Korean conflict.
“The Navajo Nation has lost our last living treasure, Chester Nez,” Shelly said. “During a time in our Navajo history when our kids were shipped out to boarding school and forbidden to speak their native tongue, these brave men stepped forward to protect our country with their ability to speak Navajo.”
In a White House ceremony in July 2001, then-President George W. Bush presented Nez with a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.
“I was very proud to say that the Japanese did everything in their power to break that code but they never did,” Nez said in a 2013 interview with Stars and Stripes.
“Chester Nez and the rest of the Original 29 now belong to the ages. We salute their valiant service and memory,” Shelly said. “We send his family and friends our deepest sympathy and condolences.”
Nez was a member of the Chichiltah and Manuelito Chaptera
The U.S. Marines issued a statement noting the incredible bravery, dedicated service and sacrifices of Mr. Nez and his fellow Code Talkers.