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He is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive-and this is his story . . . His name wasn't Chestesr Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn't stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength-both physical and mental-to excel as a marine. During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare-and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.
Chester Nez is a World War II veteran who indispensably served his country as a Navajo code talker.
Judith Schiess Avila is a code talker scholar with the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities Chautauqua Program. She tours the state giving presentations on the topic. She and Chester have been friends since 2007.