RIP Chester Nez, Last of the Original Navajo Code Talkers


Former US Marine Chester Nez died on Wednesday, at home in Albuquerque, at age 93. He was the last of the original Navajo code talkers: 29 men who created a code over 13 weeks that would keep thousands and thousands of soldiers safe in the Pacific theater, and famously is the only oral military code to never have been broken. (It was declassified in 1968.) Nez’s whole obituary at the Times is a tremendous read, and so is the kicker:

A few years ago, Mr. Nez lost both legs to diabetes, long epidemic among Native Americans.

In his many interviews and public appearances, Mr. Nez expressed unmistakable pride in his wartime work. But the irony of what that work entailed was far from lost on him.

“All those years, telling you not to speak Navajo, and then to turn around and ask us for help with that same language,” he told USA Today in 2002. “It still kind of bothers me.”