The last of the Navajo military coders died
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Wednesday, aged 93, Chester Nez is the last surviving Navajo cryptographers. This was reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Nez was a member of a group of 29 Indians who were engaged in the transfer of Navajo ciphers during World War II, who played a crucial role in the delivery of data to the US military. Chester was one of the first Navajo recruited during the war.
“As far back as I can remember, the Navajo people have always been warriors,” Nez said in an interview. “It was an honor for us to defend the house from the enemy.”
The "Navajo Code" was based on a unique Indian alphabet of 26 letters. The Navajo language is extremely difficult to learn, and 68 years ago there was no fixed set of grammar rules, so it was practically impossible to master it in a short time.
The first group of Indians took up the duties of cryptographers in 1942 at the Pendleton base in California. They called themselves “Speakers with the Wind”. The advantage of using the Navajo language was that its speakers could negotiate on the air, while their meaning remained inaccessible to the enemy.
In 2002, director John Woo directed the feature film Windtalkers, telling the story of Indian radio operators to audiences around the world.
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