"We mourn his passing but honor and celebrate the indomitable spirit and dedication of those Marines who became known as the Navajo code talkers," the Marines said in a statement.
Nez was the last remaining of the original 29 Navajos recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary code that was used for vital communications during battle. He was a teenager when he was recruited in 1942 and assigned with the other code talkers to the Marine Corps' 382nd Platoon at Camp Pendleton. Together, they created a code, including developing a dictionary. Military authorities chose Navajo as a code language because its syntax and tonal qualities were almost impossible for a non-Navajo to learn, and it had no written form. The ranks of the Navajo code talkers swelled to more than 300 by the end of the war in 1945.
The code talkers were forbidden from telling anyone about it -- not their fellow Marines, not their families -- until their work was declassified in 1968. The original 29 were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001 by President George W. Bush.
"In developing our code, we were careful to use everyday Navajo words, so that we could memorize and retain the words easily," Nez told CNN in 2011 while promoting his book "Code Talker." "I think that made our job easier, and I think it helped us to be successful in the heat of battle."
The Navajo code baffled the Japanese, who had successfuly deciphered codes used by the U.S. Army. After the war, the Japanese chief of intelligence, Lt. General Seizo Arisue, admitted they were never able to crack the Navajo code used by the Marines and Navy, according to the Navy.
|Nez, standing front left, poses for a portrait with the first group of Navajo code talkers, 1942.|
"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," he said. "The feeling that I could make it in both the white world and the Navajo world began there, and it has stayed with me all of my life. For that I am grateful."
August 19, 2008 – Hasbro G.I. Joe 1/6 scale Navajo Code Talker 12-inch figure posted HERE
August 17, 2008 – Dragon Models Limited (DML) "Windtalkers (2002)" 1/6 scale Nicholas Cage as USMC SGT Joe Enders reviewed HERE
August 17, 2008 – Dragon Models Limited (DML) "Windtalkers (2002)" 1/6 scale Adam Beach as USMC Code Talker Private Ben Yahzee (pictures HERE)
August 17, 2008 – Dragon Models Limited (DML) "Windtalkers (2002)" 1/6 scale Christian Slater as USMC Sergeant Pete Ox Anderson posted HERE