Last Navajo 'Code Talker' dies in New Mexico: report
Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez is seen at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 2002. REUTERS/Jeff Snyder (Jeff Snyder, Reuters / June 4, 2014)
Family members confirmed the death of Chester Nez to Albuquerque's Action 7 News. He was the last remaining survivor of an original group of 29 Navajos recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to create a code based on their language that the Japanese could not crack.
About 400 code talkers used their unique battlefield cipher to encrypt messages sent from field telephones and radios throughout the Pacific theater during the war.
It was regarded as secure from Japanese military code breakers because the language was spoken only in the U.S. Southwest, was known by fewer than 30 non-Navajo people, and had no written form.
The Navajos' skill, speed and accuracy under fire in ferocious battles from the Marshall Islands to Iwo Jima is credited with saving thousands of U.S. servicemen's lives and helping shorten the conflict.
Last November, the American Veterans Center honored Nez for bravery and valor above and beyond the call of duty, awarding him the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service.