Code talker

Chester Nez

Book - 2011

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New York : Berkley Caliber 2011.
Main Author
Chester Nez (-)
Other Authors
Judith Schiess Avila (-)
1st ed
Physical Description
viii, 310 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore "the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world." Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 "code talkers" selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for "A," which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life "as better than he could ever have expected," and looks back with pride on the part he played in "a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition," his culture's contribution to victory.A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.