CARROLLTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – Being fluent in Navajo wasn’t considered an advantage until World War II. That’s when the U-S Military discovered the Navajo language could be used to create a code the enemy could never decipher.
Only one of the original Navajo Code Talkers remains from the original 29 recruited during WWII. His name is Chester Nez.
“It’s getting kind of hard for me to do things like when I was young, you know,” Nez said.
He’s 91 now, hard of hearing and wheelchair bound due to a battle with diabetes.
The Marines recruited him just as he was about to turn 18, so they could use his native language as an unbreakable code.
“Japanese machine gun nest is right close by. Destroy,” he said.
In Navajo, it was difficult to tell what he was saying at all. Navajo isn’t like any other language.
The Navajos, recruited for their mission, made up code words for anything they had to say a lot. Since there was no word in Navajo for bomb, they used the word egg.
Animals represented letters of the alphabet.
“Ant. Wal-la-CHEE. B is sush. Bear. C is mosa. Cat,” Nez explained.
The enemy never caught on.
“It’s something the Japanese did everything in their power to decipher the code but they never did,” Nez said.
Members of the ROTC at R. L. Turner High School in Carrollton welcomed Chester Nez like a rock star. They took pictures with him and asked for his autograph.
The Code Talkers’ mission was kept secret until 1968. Nez couldn’t even tell his family until then. Last year, his story was published as a book, “Code Talker: The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers,” as told to Judith Avila.
“Thank you, in very big way,” Nez said after his visit. But it is we who should be thanking him.
The Code Talkers were recognized in 2001 and presented with Congressional Gold Medals by President George W. Bush. It was something Nez mentions often and says he’s very proud of.
As part of Carrollton’s Santa Fe Days, Chester Nez and Judith Avila, the author of his book, “Code Talker,” will be available to sign copies of his book Sunday, October 14, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cultural Path on Elm Street in Historic Square Downtown Carrollton.
Monday, they will be at Barnes and Noble, 7700 West Northwest Highway in Dallas from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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