Last of elite Navajo Code Talkers whose tribal language became secret weapon in WWII, has died aged 93.
The last of the 29 Navajos whose tribal language was used to develop a code that stumped the Japanese during the Second World War has died aged 93.
Chester Nez, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, died Wednesday morning of kidney failure, Judy Avila, who helped Nez write his memoirs, said.
He was one of seven veterans honored for their bravery in November last year, when he was presented with the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service.
The Windtalkers: How Native Americans helped win the war.
The U.S. Marines used codetalkers in every Pacific assault from 1942 to 1945.The Native Americans used a code based on their language, which was never cracked by the Japanese. It was estimated that outside of tribes, fewer than 30 people understood the Najavo lanaguage during the Second World War. Native American language had also been used for code purposes in the First World War.The code was made up of unrelated Najavo words that would be translated into English. The first letter of the translated word would then be used to build up the message. When the Marines developed the code they had to create new words in the language to incorporate military terms, including 'besh-lo' meaning iron fish for submarine, and 'dah-he-tih-hi', which translates as humming bird, for fighter planes. The Windtalkers, as the Native American Marines became known, were essential to the war effort, with Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, saying: 'Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.'
In 2012, Nez received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas, where he abandoned his studies in fine arts after money from his GI Bill ran out.
Despite having both legs partially amputated, confining him to a wheelchair, Nez loved to travel and tell his story. 'He always wanted to go, he loved meeting people,' said Judy Avila the author who helped him write his autobiography. 'And with something like kidney failure, it comes really gradually. At the end, he was really tired.'
Funeral arrangements are pending.