“Born to the Navajo Nation, now a Marine—Private First Class Chester Nez—I’d never seen the ocean before enlisting,” recalled one of the original code talkers on a transport ship to Guadalcanal where the Japanese enemy waited in 1942. “I reminded myself that my Navajo people had always been warriors, protectors. In that there was honor. I would concentrate on being a warrior and on protecting my homeland. Within hours, whether in harmony with this world or not, I knew I would join my fellow Marines in the fight.”
Chester Nez died in 2014 at age 93. But his firsthand account lives on in Code Talker, the bestselling memoir with author Judith Schiess Avila, who recorded and transcribed seventy-five hours of tapes of his spoken words.
Hear how his wartime story was preserved when author Judith Avila and Latham Nez, Chester’s grandson, present a New Mexico Humanities Council Speakers Bureau Program “Chester Nez: World War II Navajo Code Talker“ at 2 PM in the Collin Room of the Placitas Library on February 22.
Hear how Nez volunteered to go to war even though his Navajo people were not allowed to vote and were punished as children if they spoke their native language at school.
Hear how he and twenty-eight others, who were articulate in Navajo and English, developed the famed Navajo code, the only unbroken spoken code in modern warfare that helped the United States win the war against the Japanese.
Hear how the men devised Navajo word equivalents for the English alphabet. They were especially pleased after settling on J and Z, the most difficult letters. “Jackass,” code word tkele-cho-gi and “zinc,” code word besh-do-tliz.
Hear how the code talkers were, at long last, honored as heroes in 2001 for their WW II efforts. President George W. Bush awarded Congressional Gold Medals to the twenty-nine Navajos and recognized some 400 other code talkers for “their individual service, bravely offered and flawlessly performed.” Accompanying Chester Nez was his family, including grandson Latham Nez.
After that belated recognition, Chester Nez recalled, “I was in even greater demand as a speaker. I traveled all over for interviews, wearing my official code talkers’ uniform. A red peaked cap represented the Marines. A gold shirt, with a 3rd Division patch on the arm, stood for corn pollen. Navajo jewelry showed respect for the Navajo people, the Dine´. Light-colored pants recalled the earth and all of its inhabitants.”
Join us Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 2:00 PM in the Collin Meeting Room at the Placitas Community Library to hear author Judith Avila retell the heroic story of Chester Nez.