The United States Marine Corps is lamenting the end of an era today.
Yesterday (June 4, 2014), Chester Nez died in his Albuquerque, New Mexico home.
Chester was the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers used by the Marine Corps in World War II. Their unbreakable code was used for battlefield communications in the Pacific.
The Marine Corps statement was to the point, "We mourn his passing but honor and celebrate the indomitable spirit and dedication of those Marines who became known as the Navajo code talkers".
Recruited as a teenager in 1942, Chester was assigned to the Marine Corps' 382nd Platoon and stationed at Camp Pendleton with the other code talkers. Together they developed a code based on the Navajo language and even went so far as to create an entire dictionary.
"Our Navajo code was one of the most important military secrets of World War II. The fact that the Marines did not tell us Navajo men how to develop that code indicated their trust in us and in our abilities," Chester said.
Chester was deployed to Guadalcanal where Code Talkers worked in pairs of two - one man transmitting while the other cranked the radio and listened for errors. It was a treacherous job that exposed them to constant enemy fire.
"When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn't just curl up in a shelter," Nez wrote in his book. "We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move."
The Code Talkers were unable to tell anyone about their work during the war until it was declassified over 25 years later.
A Code Talker, a Marine, a piece of American history.
Rest in Peace, Chester.