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Chester Nez Passes On at 93
By Harold Hutchison

The last of the 29 men who started the Navajo Codetalker program that helped save the lives of countless Marines and GIs in the Pacific Theater of World War II died earlier this week. Chester Nez was 93.

Chester Nez (center), one of the 29 original codetalkers, during WWII.
(U.S. Navy photo)

According to media reports, Nez lied about his age to serve in the military, joining the Marines. He later became one of those who not only started the code talker program, but also helped develop the code. Nez and the other code talkers kept the secret until the program was declassified in 1968.

Code talkers from the Navajo and other Native American tribes served in all theaters of the war. The 2002 movie Windtalkers, directed by John Woo and starring Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, and Mark Ruffalo, featured the code talkers, as did a 1959 movie starring Charles Bronson called Never So Few.

In 2000, the Navajo codetalkers received the Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions to the American war effort in World War II. Eight years later, President George W. Bush signed legislation that recognized code talkers from other Native American tribes, including the Seminoles and Comanches.