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Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By…

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code… (edition 2012)

by Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila

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Title:Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII
Authors:Chester Nez
Other authors:Judith Schiess Avila
Info:Berkley Trade (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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Code Talkers by Chester Nez

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Code Talker by Chester Nez is a recounting of the Navajo Nation's invaluable contribution to the WWII war effort in the Pacific theater by the only living member of the original 29 Code Talkers. His recollections were then transcribed by co-author Judith Schiess Avila.

Before getting to the development of the code, Nez describes his childhood, his time in a boarding school — back in the unfortunate days when English was enforced and the speaking of Navajo resulted in punishment. Named Betoli by his family, it was at the boarding school that he was forcefully renamed Chester Nez.

Nez's emersion in English, though gave him a valuable skill when he and twenty-eight other Navajo men joined the Marines. They were brought together to create a double encrypted code that could be spoken over the radio from one Navajo trained in the code to another. By making a spoken code back in the days before computer encryption, the time needed to relay a message was slashed to mere minutes (instead of hours). The accuracy of the message went up and the ability of the Japanese (or anyone else listening) to decode it was impossible. As Nez reminds readers in every interview transcript I've read, a Navajo speaker not trained in the code wouldn't understand the message any better than anyone else hearing it.

Although I've been fascinated with Navajo culture — and the language — since 1990, this is the first time I've read anything about the Code Talkers. What drew me to the book is, of course, Chester Nez's firsthand account. Now, that he was one of the creators of the code is a special bonus. But it should be noted that all 400 Code Talkers had important parts to play. The code was also expanded over time by later speakers.

The copy I read came from my wonderful local library, but I would like to own a copy. It's something I want to re-read. ( )
  pussreboots | Feb 27, 2014 |
This is the story of Chester Nez's life - written because he was one of the original 29 creators of the Navajo code used in the Pacific theatre of WWII. However, the book covers his whole life, which was normal for him and his people, and very different for this reader. He was born and grew up in Northern New Mexico, on lands just outside the Navajo reservation. He and his brother and sister followed the herd of sheep and goats, watching over them. His maternal grandmother was the head of the household. As all children do, he learned the language, religion, and culture of his people. This book reveals a flavor of that to us.

Much later he went to boarding school, where the only language spoken was English, and the only religion was Catholic. Later, as a high school student, he joined the Marines - specifically recruited because he was fluent in both Navajo and English. The heart of the book is his description of how he helped to create the code, and how he and his fellow code talkers used it in combat. He was a key member of the various Marine Divisions to which he was assigned, as a communications person in the battles to take the islands of Guadalcanal, Bouganville, Peleliu, and Guam. My father served in the Navy in WWII, but the war ended just as he was trained and ready to enter combat. This tells what he might have faced, if he had been in combat in the Pacific.

Chester Nez could not tell anyone at home what he had done - the existence of the code talkers was classified until 1968. So he mustered out at the end of his service as a Private First Class, despite seeing heavy combat, albeit at at the absolute front lines. And he could not tell his family his experiences until it was declassified. He eventually was awarded a gold Congressional Medal of Honor - handed to him by President George W. Bush. The entire code is listed as an appendix at the back of the book.

For anyone interested in Native American history, or World War II in the Pacific - fascinating reading! ( )
  EowynA | Sep 10, 2013 |
Though I'm not normally a fan of military memoirs, I was surprised to find myself reading most of this book in one sitting, and that part being during Chester Nez's service. The battles are well explained and give excellent context for the dangerous mission Nez and the other code talkers accomplished.

The parts explaining Nez's childhood, especially the Great Livestock Massacre (For all the reading I did on The Great Depression as a Political Science major in college, I never read about that part of the Indian Reorganization Act, a fact that still makes me seethe) were equally engaging. Readers will learn much about early 20th Century Navajo life and World War II's Pacific Theater from this book.

Nez's voice comes through strongly in this memoir and the information and chapters are well-organized. Though it's not the best writing out there, it certainly very good and the Nez's compelling life story more than compensates for sometimes lackluster description. Overall, an informative and engaging read, which is really all I ask from a biography/memoir anyway. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Aug 12, 2013 |
This is the real deal.
Absolutely fascinating memoir of one of the most vital solutions to freedom in the Western Pacific.
If you like history and don't know the facts on these marvelous men - READ IT.
READ IT anyway - they saved our skins! ( )
  CasaBooks | Apr 28, 2013 |
Well I would tell my friend it is a very good book and I hope they make more like it. Q4P2 AHS/Cyle K
  edspicer | Dec 9, 2011 |
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This book is dedicated to the 420 World War II Navajo Marine code talkers - men who developed and implemented an unbreakable communications system that helped ensure the American defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific war.

When the war ended, other combatants were firee to discuss their roles in the service and to receive recognition for their actions. But the Marines instructed us, the code talkers, to keep our accomplishments secret. We kept our own counsel, hiding our deeds from family, friends, and acquaintances. Our code was finally declassified in 1968, twenty-three years after the war's end.

This book may be my story, but it is written for all of these men.

May they and their loved ones walk in beauty.
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"I'm no hero." Chester Nez chuckles.
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Book description

His name wasn't Chester Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn't stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength - both physical and mental - to excel as a Marine.

During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, the created the only unbroken code in modern warfare - and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425244237, Hardcover)

The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII-includes the actual Navajo Code and rare photos.
Although more than 400 Navajos served in the military during World War II as top-secret code talkers, even those fighting shoulder to shoulder with them were not told of their covert function. And, after the war, the Navajos were forbidden to speak of their service until 1968, when the code was finally declassified. Of the original twenty-nine Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez is the only one still alive. The original twenty-nine were the men who first devised the code, then proved it indispensable in combat.

In this memoir, the ninety-year-old Nez chronicles both his war years and his life growing up on the Checkerboard Area of the Navajo Reservation - the hard life that gave him the strength, both physical and mental, to become a Marine. His story puts a living face on the legendary men who developed what is still the only unbroken code in modern warfare.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original twenty-nine code talkers, discusses his life growing up in the Checkerboard Area of the Navajo reservation, and shares the story of how he helped the United States develop and implement a secret military language based on his native language during World War II that became the only unbroken code in modern warfare.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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