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Code talker
Book
2011
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  Library Journal Review

The Navajo author led a remarkable life. New Mexico was not kind to the Nez family, which struggled to earn a living from the land while doing without modern conveniences like electricity. Despite the hardships, Nez recounts the joy of a life lived in harmony with nature. After very difficult school years, Nez joined the U.S. military during World War II. He eventually became a Code Talker, one of the Navajo men tasked with creating a secret military language that the enemy couldn't decipher. The code Nez helped to develop proved instrumental in ensuring victory over the Japanese. David Colacci, past winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award, does admirable work voicing Nez and all the moments of surprise and wonder as he navigates American culture while guided by traditional Navajo sensibilities. VERDICT This compelling story will be of interest to World War II fans as well as enthusiasts of Native American history and culture. ["Accessible and compelling, this is recommended for general readers as well as World War II history buffs," read the review of the Berkeley Caliber: Penguin hc, LJ 10/1/12.-Ed.]-Denis Frias, Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Kirkus 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.
Summary
The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII. <br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> INCLUDES THE ACTUAL NAVAJO CODE AND RARE PICTURES
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