Enter below to win the novel Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII & the film Windtalkers. Chester Nez was a World War II veteran who indispensably served his country as a Navajo code talker. His book features retelling accounts of 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.1
People ask me, ‘Why did you go? Look at all the mistreatment that has been done to your people.’ Somebody’s got to go, somebody’s got to defend this country. Somebody’s got to defend the freedom. This is the reason why I went.
— Chester Nez (Diné, World War II & Korean War veteran)
Did you know that Native Americans serve in the military at higher rates than any other demographic in the U.S.? According to Military Times, "Since 9/11, nearly 19% of Native Americans have served in the armed forces, compared to an average of 14% of all other ethnicities."1
Who were the Navajo Code Talkers and what did they do?
In 1942, 29 Navajo marines (known as 'the Original 29') encrypted their Native language to provide fast and secure communications during World War II. They were commended for their skill, speed, and accuracy. The 'Original 29' and nearly 400 other Navajo Code Talkers are credited with helping the United States win World War II.
Major Howard Connor had 6 Navajo code talkers working 24/7 during the first two days of the Battle of Iwo Jima. They sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. Connor stated, "Were it not for the Navajo, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."3
Did other tribes serve as Code Talkers?
Members of the Choctaw, Comanche, Hopi, and Cherokee tribes served the US Army as Code Talkers during World War 1. In the early 1940s, WWI veteran Philip Johnston recalled the value of these code talkers and their languages. He had been raised on the Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary and was one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently.3
Given the history between the U.S. Government and Native American tribes, why do so many choose to serve in the military?
The answers are as diverse as the 573 tribes themselves. For many, military service is an extension of their warrior traditions. Others serve for financial reasons. For some, it is a family tradition. Still, others serve for the sheer love of home and country. PBS recently released a documentary, "The Warrior Tradition," which tells the largely untold stories of Native Americans in the military from their own point of view.
Many of PWNA's services help Native American Elders & Veterans. We are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice. Below are some success stories featuring Native American veterans.
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