By William Knowles @c4i
June 5, 2014
Chester Nez, the last original Navajo Code Talker, has passed away quietly in his sleep at his Albuquerque home.
Nez served with the United States Marines in the Pacific and helped defeat the Japanese by creating a code, using the Navajo language, and secret words that were never broken.
Sent to a boarding school as a child, Nez and other Navajo children were discouraged from speaking their native language and instructed to only use English, but that didn’t stop them from whispering Navajo to each other in secret. In 1942, Navajo was recruited from boarding schools to join the Marines and use their unique skills to develop an unbreakable code to pass messages.
“Chester is the last link from the Navajo people who forged a secret code that helped win the Second World War. Their code led to the training of 400+ additional Navajo code talkers. To record his story in first hand is critical to American and military history.” DeJonge said.
Nez’s recently published memoir, written with Judith Avila and titled Code Talker, is the only book about the code talkers by one of the 29 original Navajo Marine volunteers. Avila also will be a consultant on the film.
“Most people think that the famous and unbroken Navajo code consisted of simply speaking Navajo. But that wasn’t the case. Even other Navajos could not crack the code – unless they had been trained as code talkers,” Avila stated.
In addition to filming Chester Nez, DeJonge will be interviewing several additional codetalkers who used the code that Chester’s team developed. DeJonge hopes to record several conversations of Chester Nez speaking the codes that he helped develop and used during WWII.
Filming will continue this spring. An initial grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation of Montana is supporting the project. DeJonge is seeking an additional $37,000 in donations to complete the project. Interested parties should contact him through this website. – www.survivorquest.org/
Nez’s public viewing will take place June 9 from 5-8 p.m. at French Mortuary, 10500 Lomas Blvd. NE.