Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

4.5 40
by Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila
     
 

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He is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive—and this is his story . . .

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

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Overview

He is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive—and this is his story . . .

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, they 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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"From Guadalcanal through Bougainville to Peleliu, Nez relates a riveting tale of jungle combat and his personal struggle to adapt to civilian life following the most cataclysmic war in our nation’s history. Gripping in its narrative, Code Talker is history at its best."— Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army (Ret.), co-author of Beyond Band of Brothers

"A fascinating inside look at one of WWII’s most closely guarded secrets…This is an important book, a previously untold piece of our history."— Marcus Brotherton, author of Shifty's War

"You don’t need to be a fan of World War II literature to appreciate this memoir…a fascinating melange of combat in the Pacific theater, the history of the Navajo people and the development of a uniquely American code."— The Associated Press

"A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation." — Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Written with code talker scholar Schiess Avila, Nez's fascinating memoir details his experience as one of the original 29 "code talkers"-a group of Native American soldiers who kept U.S. transmissions safe from the Japanese during WWII. The code they used was developed using Navajo, an entirely spoken language. Most Marines had no idea that Nez or his fellow Navajos were involved with the highly classified code talker mission, and trusted the team despite the era's prevalent racial segregation. Though Nez grew up speaking Navajo, he was sent to government-run boarding schools, and forced to learn English. His facility with both languages allowed him to advance during his career with the Marines, and he counts the day of his enlistment (while still in high school) as the luckiest day of his life. Still, when Nez returned home to New Mexico in 1945, it would be another three years before Native Americans were allowed to vote. Though the last section of the book drifts, readers will be captivated by stories of Nez's childhood and his days as a Marine.
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Library Journal
While the Japanese could figure out many World War II American codes and transmissions, they could not crack the Navajo Code Talkers. Nez was one of the original Code Talkers serving with the Marines. Here, with Avila (New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities Chautauqua Program), a Code Talker scholar, he tells of a hard New Mexico childhood in the Great Depression; the discrimination against Native Americans; how the code was developed from a language with no written background; his dangerous wartime experiences on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, and Peleliu; and his postwar life. The big picture of the Pacific Campaign is only selectively mentioned; instead there's lots of detail of personal effort, suffering, and boredom, summoning the true flavor of the war and a portrait of those who made a valuable contribution to the war effort. The appendix is a 1945 "Navajo Code Talkers Dictionary" from the U.S. Navy, also available online. VERDICT Accessible and compelling, this is recommended for general readers as well as World War II history buffs.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425247853
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
99,398
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation." —-Kirkus

Meet the Author

Chester Nez is a World War II veteran who indispensably served his country as a Navajo code talker.

Judith Schiess Avila is a code talker scholar with the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities Chautauqua Program. She tours the state giving presentations on the topic. She and Chester have been friends since 2007.

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Code Talker 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 40 reviews.
AnAvidReaderKM More than 1 year ago
CODE TALKER Memoir of the last original code talker, Chester Nez, as told to Judith Schiess Avila This is a story that truly has something for everyone. History, touching human drama and Native American experiences woven brilliantly into a beautifully written story that restores your faith in the strength and courage of humanity. Sometimes a hero bursts upon the scene like Superman leaping over a tall building in a single bound. But sometimes a hero puts one foot in front of the other to face the trials and challenges of life with courage, faith and quiet dignity. Chester Nez spent most of his life as one of those unknown heroes. His footsteps took him from the Navajo reservation where he was born to the school where he was forbidden to speak his native language. When he left school to join the marines those footsteps took him to the shores of Guadalcanal in World War II. Using his Navajo language he became a member of the team that developed the only code the Japanese were unable to break. This system enabled the US to communicate plans that helped bring victory earlier and saved countless lives. But there was no welcoming parade for Nez when the war was over. He returned to face the prejuidice of life as part of a minority. The role of the code talkers and his heroism remained secret for decades. After meeting Nez, Avila also put one foot in front of the other herself for four years in an effort to bring his unique personal story to light. The years spent interviewing Nez, researching and polishing this story were well spent. This, her first book, is considered to be an "important work" by historians and a "great read" in general. The compelling human saga of this story makes it a perfect choice for anyone simply looking for a great book to read. The historical content makes it a double header. Add inspirational insights into the life of a Native American and anyone who enjoys reading will feel like they hit the trifecta with this one. It is a captivating page turner that is as readable as it is informative. I just hope that this is only the first of what will be many books by this exceptionally talented emerging author.
cannot-live-without-books More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written book where Chester Nez shares some of his boyhood in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, boarding schools, and Marine Training in San Diego. The Dine' are a resilient people and I am so grateful that their culture, as with many other Native Americans, was not destroyed. I thank Chester for sharing his memoirs with us as what he and his comrades did is amazing. Mr Nez, "May you always walk in beauty".
top21 More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! To read about the honor and commitment that the Navajo men had towards the United States even though their ancestors were treated so badly is nothing less than amazing. Even during Chester's life he and his family were treated poorly in school and with their sheep. But Chester and the other code talkers gallantly took their duty in stride with great pride in what they did and in the United States. Just the fact that all of the code talkers kept quiet for the security of the US for over 20 years shows their commitment to the US. This book also showed that Chester's life was not easy, including his marriage and the loss of some of his children. A very rewarding book to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fascinating story of a Native American growing up in America and becoming an integral cog in winning the war in the Pacific. The ironic part is that Chester Nez went from having to learn English as a boy and then using his native Navajo in the war effort. From start to finish, this was a book I couldn't put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Chester Nez is a humble hero and this story was truly an example of the greatest generation.
WOLFSOLDIERGIRL More than 1 year ago
THIS IS A GREAT BOOK ABOUT THE CODE TALKERS! CHESTER NEZ TELLS THE STORY OF HIS LIFE AS A CODE TALKER AND SOME OF HIS LIFE BEFORE. THE THINGS AMERICANS DID TO HIS PEOPLE... ALL NATIVE AMERICANS MAKES ME SICK.. I HAVE READ WORSE BOOKS.. BUT READING JUST A FEW LITTLE THINGS HE MENTIONS AND THEN HE STILL GOES AND WANTS TO FIGHT FOR HIS COUNTRY AND LEARN THINGS IS AMAZING. I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. A GREAT STORY OF A MANS LIFE.
lift-48 More than 1 year ago
I found code talker slow and a repeat of the same material.His account of the action of the code talker was vague. The history of of Nez Navajo life was very good. I found out a lot of problems the Navajo people went though and respect of nature.
ChuckLaBee More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed and appreciated this very complete accounting of the story of one of the original code talkers. Chester tells the story well. His recollections of the battles and beach landings are intense. And his telling about life on the reservation, both about his childhood before the war and his life experiences after returning home, are riveting. This book answers many questions, not all, but a lot of them, about how this all came about. A very enjoyable read. The Navajo are a very special people, and the cultural elements that came together to create the Code Talker phenomenon could have been accomplished by few other groups. Our country owes them a great debt of gratitude. This book tells that story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was a book i read for my book club- has been on my to read list for a long time• Every American should read this book• Bought for a 13 year old for Christmas
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son is a history major and just in general he and I both enjoy reading history, this is a great book for histroy buffs and those interested in WW II history!
Anonymous 25 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You still have no army. &star
mosesmom More than 1 year ago
I gave Code Talker to husband. He has enjoyed it a great deal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RichardSutton More than 1 year ago
This book assembles two very solid narratives into a great story. The writing voice used by the biographer, Judith Avila keeps it a dictated, First Person memoir, so it stays fresh all the way through.The first is a very moving account of Chester Nez' life growing up in the Checkerboard region of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. What made it particularly special for me is that his family home in Chichiltah, between Gallup and Zuni, is a spot we're very familiar with, having passed through many times every year from 1985 until our last official buying trip for our American Indian Arts business in 2007. His stories of the sheep and goats, the hogans and the mesas, junipers and PInon pine blending into the Ponderosas brought it all back to me. This part of the book also highlights the incredible cruelty of the Indian School System that American Indian kids were subjected to before it was ended, an official policy of destroying indigenous cultures and languages. The fact that from a culture derided by the government came a group of servicemen who created the basis of victory in the Pacific theater in WW2 from the language they were punished at school for speaking is only one of the amazing things about Nez' story. The second part deals with a ripping good story of the fighting spirit of these men in the horrific and utterly alien conditions (for them) in the South Pacific as they fought the Japanese in several assaults. The Code Talkers were in the forefront of every action and their total losses at war's end were much fewer than the odds would have it. I have twice been fortunate to be present when living Code Talkers were in parades or ceremonies in Gallup, and I am not exaggerating when I say that those communities gathered to show them honor revered these men as true American Heroes. Last week, we received news that Chester Nez, the last living Code Talker had passed to the next world. His memoir helps make up for the loss of this great American. This is one of the stories that every schoolchild should know by heart. I highly recommend it. One complaint I had against the Nook version of the eBook that I read was that the Appendix, which relays the entire, once-top-secret Navajo Code, is not in text, but in images which result in such small text sizes it is illegible. Learning the many Navajo words and expressions the book is well-sprinkled with was a real pleasure for me, so it was sad that the code itself was obscured. The publisher should make sure that the code section is also text for the educational value it carries. Add a star if they eventually do that..
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