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

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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 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, only two are still alive. Chester Nez is one of them. In this memoir, the eighty-nine-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.


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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 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, only two are still alive. Chester Nez is one of them. In this memoir, the eighty-nine-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.

30 review for Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    It is arguable whether the Japanese or the Nazis were the most cruel in WWII, neither showed the slightest mercy or even acknowledgement of their enemies' humanity. Far from it, they each went all out to exterminate from the earth those they felt didn't deserve even life. All in the name of some ugly character with a warped philosophy or an equally warped divine emperor both of whom inspired religious devotion as if they were God incarnate. Now read this, from Code Talker: "The Japanese who held G It is arguable whether the Japanese or the Nazis were the most cruel in WWII, neither showed the slightest mercy or even acknowledgement of their enemies' humanity. Far from it, they each went all out to exterminate from the earth those they felt didn't deserve even life. All in the name of some ugly character with a warped philosophy or an equally warped divine emperor both of whom inspired religious devotion as if they were God incarnate. Now read this, from Code Talker: "The Japanese who held Guadalcanal were trained not to surrender. Their war strategy revolved around the Bushido code, an ancient way of the warrior first developed by the Samurai. This code of conduct extolled loyalty and obedience. Soldiers were required to fight to the death and take as many of their enemy with them as they could. Even facing impossible odds, Japanese soldiers chose to blow themselves up hoping to blow American soldiers up rather than surrender. They would die for their Emperor." Substitute a couple of words here and there, think of recent events, think of ISIS and their ilk. It seems that we learn of history so that we don't repeat it, but some of them learn history to take inspiration in evil. And what of the Japanese who didn't say anything, or the Germans neither of them got a free pass, but these days well you get my drift. ______________ This is really a 4 star book. But the author deserves the extra star. There was not enough about the code (in fact, almost nothing) and an awful lot about the battles for Guadacanal and Peleliu. The worst thing about the book was the way the Navajos were treated after the war. Back to 'we don't serve Indians here'. As their jobs as code talkers and more importantly code-developers, were protected information, not declassified until 1968, the soldiers had to present themselves as very ordinary infantrymen rather than dedicated specialists which would have got them much better jobs, in fact it might have got them jobs. ______________

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amber Foxx

    Veterans’ Honor Song I read this book a while back, before I joined Goodreads. The author, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, died yesterday. Before I read this book, I'd heard of him and the work this group of Marines did, but I had no understanding of the danger they endured. The book not only tells of the development of the code, and the battles in which it was used, but shares the author’s life growing up on the Navajo reservation, and his life after the war. His humor, humility Veterans’ Honor Song I read this book a while back, before I joined Goodreads. The author, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, died yesterday. Before I read this book, I'd heard of him and the work this group of Marines did, but I had no understanding of the danger they endured. The book not only tells of the development of the code, and the battles in which it was used, but shares the author’s life growing up on the Navajo reservation, and his life after the war. His humor, humility and wisdom make this worth reading. I’m not a war buff. That’s not why I read it. This is a human story that includes a war. The author doesn’t make himself into a hero, though many people would say he was one, and he doesn’t glorify war or his part in it. His account of war tells of his friendships with his fellow code talkers, and shows compassionate awareness of the indigenous people of the Pacific islands where major WWII battles took place, destroying their homelands. For a reader not acquainted with Navajo culture and who has never heard that difficult language spoken, it’s still accessible, though if you have some familiarity with both the book will mean even more. I was the only member of my book club with that background when we read it, and all of us liked this book, and felt that in reading it we had met a man worth knowing. Honor his memory and that of all the Code Talkers. Read this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    Code Talker is the biography of Navajo code talker, Chester Nez. Chester was one of the original Marine Code Talkers and he wrote a fairly interesting biography. I hadn’t realized just how important the Navajo code was to the Pacific War. Prior to the Navajo code, the Marines used a cumbersome code that took 4 hours to transmit, decode, and disseminate and the Japanese could break it. The Navajo code could be transmitted, decoded and disseminated in 4 minutes. Because of this, it was much easier Code Talker is the biography of Navajo code talker, Chester Nez. Chester was one of the original Marine Code Talkers and he wrote a fairly interesting biography. I hadn’t realized just how important the Navajo code was to the Pacific War. Prior to the Navajo code, the Marines used a cumbersome code that took 4 hours to transmit, decode, and disseminate and the Japanese could break it. The Navajo code could be transmitted, decoded and disseminated in 4 minutes. Because of this, it was much easier to use to direct naval gunfire, for example. The best thing was that the Japanese could not break the Navajo code. There was quite a burden on these young code talkers. They were not allowed to talk about the code until it was declassified in the 1960s. Also, they were so critical to the success of Marine operations that they could not be spared. They rarely received R&R like the other Marines. When a campaign was over and a Marine Division was sent to Australia for R&R, the Code Talkers did not get to go. Instead, they were sent to the staging area for the next invasion. One thing that struck me was the sense of duty and patriotism that the Navajo demonstrated during the war. At the start of WWII the tribe made a statement that the Navajo would support the war effort just like they had done in WWI. Chester was aware of his heritage and the fact that he was a Navajo brave. He intended to fight. Also, unlike the very bad movie entitled Windtalkers, Chester didn’t dwell on any abject racism or bullying. In fact, it sounds like he fit in well with the Marine Corp. He was proud to serve. This one was a quick easy read and didn’t feel too burdensome like some books. It’s a 3.5 star read and worth the effort. After further thought I am going to round up to 4. Chester Nez was a great man. He led an interesting life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A (highly personal) memoir, in the truest sense of the word, but also an utterly fascinating peek into an extraordinary footnote in military (particularly WWII, Pacific Theater) history. The book contains more than enough informative history to satisfy military history buffs, the author's experiences make a cat's nine lives seem modest, and the author sprinkled the book with sufficient seasonings (or tastes and reminiscences) of Navajo culture, religion, philosophy, and ... well ... beauty and g A (highly personal) memoir, in the truest sense of the word, but also an utterly fascinating peek into an extraordinary footnote in military (particularly WWII, Pacific Theater) history. The book contains more than enough informative history to satisfy military history buffs, the author's experiences make a cat's nine lives seem modest, and the author sprinkled the book with sufficient seasonings (or tastes and reminiscences) of Navajo culture, religion, philosophy, and ... well ... beauty and grace, to make the whole experience worthwhile. An extraordinary tale of what could have been an incredibly ordinary, unobserved life ... that, instead, is remarkable not only for how far the author traveled, what he (and his colleagues) accomplished, how long he was (and his colleagues were) prohibited from telling his tale, and how the human condition - at a different time and place - in a different culture animated by different religious beliefs - filled with joy and sorrow and love and loss - makes for a remarkably compelling life story. As for the book, the highly personal nature of the narrative is, arguably, its greatest strength and its most profound (and potentially distracting) weakness. First and foremost, I'm pretty sure that, if I had ever had the opportunity to meet Chester Nez, I would have like him and enjoyed sharing a meal with him. And there's no doubt that I came to respect him. But his remarkable life didn't prepare him to write history (let alone literature), and I fear his co-authors tried too hard to permit his voice and tone to ring true. It's admirable, to a certain extent, but it ultimately renders the book uneven with more neither-fish-nor-fowl (not quite history, not quite biography, not simply a memoir) for my tastes. In other words, if, for example, you're a serious military history (particularly academic military history) reader, this may drive you to distraction. But - to be fair, for better or worse - it is (transparently and accurately) billed as a memoir. I remember hearing and reading about Nez a number of years back, when the book was first out - and I don't recall why I didn't buy/read the book at the time. Here's a taste of some of coverage: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/28/1428496.... Nor do I remember why I didn't read it after Nez passed away, and he was again in the mainstream media: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/04/us/nava.... (OK, OK, I never saw the movie Windtalkers, and I understand I didn't miss anything.) In any event, I'm glad I finally got around to reading the book. As an aside, if you're fascinated with the Nazi Enigma code, Alan Turing, Bletchley Park, Ultra, or, for example, the (nicely done) somewhat recent Imitation Game movie, this story, the author's life, and this book, represent the most polar opposite experience imaginable. That doesn't make it any more or less important or interesting - it's just completely different, in every conceivable way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beck Frost

    Open to the pictures section and look at the Chester Nez featured on the last page. The one with him sitting with his kids and grandkids. It becomes very easy to imagine this man sitting and engaging with the woman who interviewed him. This is the man whose voice enters your head and you see his shoulders move up and down. The occasional hand expression. The laughter when he remembers something funny. This book feels alive with his simple way of telling the story that is his life as he remembers Open to the pictures section and look at the Chester Nez featured on the last page. The one with him sitting with his kids and grandkids. It becomes very easy to imagine this man sitting and engaging with the woman who interviewed him. This is the man whose voice enters your head and you see his shoulders move up and down. The occasional hand expression. The laughter when he remembers something funny. This book feels alive with his simple way of telling the story that is his life as he remembers it. I enjoyed listening to him tell me his tales. I felt a warm presence which I guess is a wonderful thing from a memoir, right?

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    The use of Navajo "code talkers" by the Marine Corps in World War II makes for a marvelous tale, in the hands of a skilled writer; unfortunately, Ms. Avila doesn't fit the job description. With this kind of subject matter, Code Talker could, and should, have been a better read. Perhaps, in the future, this story will find a more adept voice.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Byron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was a fascinating book. Chester Nez is a navajo, who has already seen many travesties brought on his people. But, when America was dragged into the war after Pearl Harbor, he stood alongside white man and fought for his/their country. I couldn't help but really like Chester. He is so unassuming and he has led an amazing life. The secret mission of creating the code and then using it in the theatre of war is not all this book is about. Chester has encapsulated everything that it means to be a This was a fascinating book. Chester Nez is a navajo, who has already seen many travesties brought on his people. But, when America was dragged into the war after Pearl Harbor, he stood alongside white man and fought for his/their country. I couldn't help but really like Chester. He is so unassuming and he has led an amazing life. The secret mission of creating the code and then using it in the theatre of war is not all this book is about. Chester has encapsulated everything that it means to be a navajo, and put it on paper for us all to read. I would definitely recommend this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Su Armitage

    I really really liked this book. It's many books in one - a book on religion, a biography, and a history of Native Americans in the Pacific in World War 2. Nez provdes a large window into Navajo culture and the foundation of its belief system. With the strength and support of his family, Nez succeeded in the white man's world. As a small child, he was sent to an English-only boarding school far away from his homeland, run by an administration that had no interest in the children as people, but s I really really liked this book. It's many books in one - a book on religion, a biography, and a history of Native Americans in the Pacific in World War 2. Nez provdes a large window into Navajo culture and the foundation of its belief system. With the strength and support of his family, Nez succeeded in the white man's world. As a small child, he was sent to an English-only boarding school far away from his homeland, run by an administration that had no interest in the children as people, but saw them only as inferior savages. But he made it through. In spite of this treatment (and the treatment of the Native Americans by white invaders), he still signed up to fight for "his country" in the Pacific. Time after time, as white battalions and troops were sent to R & R in Australia or Hawaii, Nez and his fellow code-talkers were kept on the front lines, for months at a time, being considered too important to the war effort to let them have rest & rehab. He made it through that too. Back home after the war, he succeeded in college, living in certain towns where he couldn't be served food or drink in some establishments because he wasn't white. Still, he made it through. He lived with nightmare of battles, Japanese banzai soldiers blowing themselves up before his eyes, remembrances of American soldiers decapitated and tortured after being held prisoner by the Japanese. His family and culture gave him therapy through two different "sings", years apart, and both were successful in relieving him of his nightmares. In our culture, veterans can go through years and years of psychological and psychiatric counseling, at great expense, and not often successful. In Nez's culture, the family, the people and the suffering person know that something in the sufferer's life is out of balance, and with faith and love, balance is regained. Now, I know that doesn't always work - some illnesses with physical causes or contributing causes, need medication to be cured. But it's amazing what faith and love will heal! Nez made it through!

  9. 5 out of 5

    GymGuy

    Disappointing. I guess I'm going to rate this differently than most. I thought the part about creating the Navajo code was interesting, but as a whole, it felt the book was more like reading a stranger's diary. Shortly after moving to AZ, I visited the Heard Museum, which is primarily dedicated to Native American culture. As part of their tour, you get a total indoctrination into the horrors of the White Man. After having heard enough of that I left. Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but I refuse to feel g Disappointing. I guess I'm going to rate this differently than most. I thought the part about creating the Navajo code was interesting, but as a whole, it felt the book was more like reading a stranger's diary. Shortly after moving to AZ, I visited the Heard Museum, which is primarily dedicated to Native American culture. As part of their tour, you get a total indoctrination into the horrors of the White Man. After having heard enough of that I left. Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but I refuse to feel guilt for what previous generations did. I wasn't born and I don't feel that I need to bear that burden. I bring this up because about a quarter of this book is the same story of death marches and Indian schools. It was a horrible time and one we need to learn from, but I refuse to feel personally responsible. I've read several novels about Pacific battles and basic training. Most of that was a repeat. I thought the Navajo coding was interesting, but reading chapter after chapter of it was pretty repetitive. I felt that the prose was way to journalistic. There was little emotion, and because it was a straight narrative, rather uninteresting. Then there was the unevenness. Some paragraphs were written very simplistically. I'm assuming those were taken directly from Nez. Then there would be some dissertation about a ship or a battle or a history lesson that seemed to come off the internet or from some scholarly WWII research. So which was it? A history lesson or a memoir? The rest of the story, while perhaps interesting to many, just didn't really interest me. While sometimes life is more exciting than fiction, it generally isn't...that's why we have novels. In this case, amateurish writing style and a story that would be more interesting to family and friends made for a rather boring read to an outsider.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Chester Nez was raised on 'the Rez'. As a young man he was taken miles from his home to the "White School". They cut his hair, changed his name, and like so many, had his language nearly beaten out of him. During World War II, when the Japanese were breaking every code, when young American soldiers were dying at alarming rates in the South Pacific, a secret plan was formulated. The United States Marine Corps sent men to the Navajo Reservations of the Southwest, looking for Native American's who we Chester Nez was raised on 'the Rez'. As a young man he was taken miles from his home to the "White School". They cut his hair, changed his name, and like so many, had his language nearly beaten out of him. During World War II, when the Japanese were breaking every code, when young American soldiers were dying at alarming rates in the South Pacific, a secret plan was formulated. The United States Marine Corps sent men to the Navajo Reservations of the Southwest, looking for Native American's who were fluent in both English and Navajo. A few still existed. Chester Nez was one of those young men. Navajo is a tonal language, but even Navajo men who have been raised away from the language, then return to their homes, do not speak the same as those who heard the language from birth. It could not be perfectly duplicated - what made it perfect for a Code. This book is a fascinating look at a secret code that heavily impacted the United States winning the War in the Pacific. Until 1968, the code was top secret. These hero soldiers went back to their families, and could never tell anyone what they did during the war. Chester Nez explains that even though what they broadcasted was their language, it was still Code - a tank might be a turtle. Impressive to me, was the fact that as badly as they had been treated, the Navajo men who went to war, went as proud citizens of the United States of America (though denied many rights of citizenship), and as proud Navajo Warriors, protecting 'their' country. On July 27, 2001, President Bush presented 4 of the 5 living Code Talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal. The backside of the medal reads, "We Used Our Language to Defeat The Enemy". This is a wonderful, inspirational book about men of great honor and courage, written by the last surviving original Code Talker.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karen Fisher-Alaniz

    This is the memoir of Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29 Navajo code talkers. With so many books, information, and even a movie on the subject, some might argue that we already know all there is to know. Right? Wrong! Mr. Nez's book, along with co-author Judith Avila is a treasure trove of personal, firsthand information. He is the only one of the code talkers to write a memoir. That is what makes this a powerful memoir. Clearly in his own voice, we learn all about what it This is the memoir of Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29 Navajo code talkers. With so many books, information, and even a movie on the subject, some might argue that we already know all there is to know. Right? Wrong! Mr. Nez's book, along with co-author Judith Avila is a treasure trove of personal, firsthand information. He is the only one of the code talkers to write a memoir. That is what makes this a powerful memoir. Clearly in his own voice, we learn all about what it was like, beginning with his life with his Navajo family. To understand his service to his country, one must know where he was literally coming from. This background information is important to any story, but especially important for Mr. Nez' because his culture is one that is not known or understood by most Americans. He is a hero, though I'm sure he would balk at that. Read this memoir. It will live in your heart forever. Thank you, Mr. Nez and thank you, Judith Avila! This story is truly priceless!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Fascinating memoir of one of the last original code talkers of WWII. I loved the story and the richness of details about his life, however; I give it 3 stars because it just felt flat. And what a pity because it's a fascinating story. I wish his memoir had been written by a better skilled writer, but with that being said, I would still recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kiki

    Native men growing up in the 30s were uniquely equipped to excel at a top secret wartime mission. They were in that position because of a bizarre combination of the native life they loved and the US government's attempt to take it away from them. Their commitment to defending America after cruel treatment by the government is phenomenal, they were able to separate their love of country from abuse by the American government. On a much broader scale, that is a life lesson that is going to stick wi Native men growing up in the 30s were uniquely equipped to excel at a top secret wartime mission. They were in that position because of a bizarre combination of the native life they loved and the US government's attempt to take it away from them. Their commitment to defending America after cruel treatment by the government is phenomenal, they were able to separate their love of country from abuse by the American government. On a much broader scale, that is a life lesson that is going to stick with me. The book was extremely informative. The war recollections and Chester's thoughts about his purpose in the war were very interesting and read like a novel. There was definitely a disconnect in the style of writing, more "this happened and I was there" rather than "this happened to me". It didn't take away from the book, rather, it contributed to understanding the emotional toll WWII took on Chester Nez, and all of the combatants. I especially appreciated the insights into how the war was different for native men. The book was billed as a memoir, and I think the two authors weren't as excited about relaying Chester's life after the war. It felt like bullet points until they got to a piece about his involvement in the war being recognized and honored. A fascinating story, and learning some of the details about the famous code talkers makes me respect their contribution even more.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda Owen

    Not a work of literature, but a great piece of "as told to" reporting, augmented with painstaking historical and cultural research. Against the hellish backdrop of the war in the South Pacific, we are shown the bravery, dignity and sense of duty that the Navajo code talkers brought to their assignment. These were key values in a culture that had survived everything the White Man did to try to eradicate it, including boarding schools, the Long Walk and the Great Livestock Massacre. In spite of it Not a work of literature, but a great piece of "as told to" reporting, augmented with painstaking historical and cultural research. Against the hellish backdrop of the war in the South Pacific, we are shown the bravery, dignity and sense of duty that the Navajo code talkers brought to their assignment. These were key values in a culture that had survived everything the White Man did to try to eradicate it, including boarding schools, the Long Walk and the Great Livestock Massacre. In spite of it all, Chester Nez and his Navajo comrades deeply believed in their country, and once the code was finally declassified and its importance widely known, their work became a source of great pride among the Navajo nation. In a poignant final chapter, Nez sums up the lasting significance of their lives: "My fellow code talkers and I have become part of a new oral and written tradition, a Navajo victory, with our culture contributing to our country's defeat of a wily foe. The story of the code talkers has been told on the Checkerboard and the reservation and recorded in the history books forever. Our story is not one of sorrow, like the Long Walk and the Great Livestock Massacre, but one of triumph."

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Code Talker is one of the best books I've read on the subject of the Navajo Code Talkers, not because it gives you lots of details on the subject, but because it's one of the few books written from the perspective of the Navajo Code Talker himself. These are the memories of 90-year-old man, and as such, some of the details are a bit sketchy or flawed, but you really get to see World War II through the eyes of a traditional Navajo. Where the book really shines is when Nez discusses how the ways o Code Talker is one of the best books I've read on the subject of the Navajo Code Talkers, not because it gives you lots of details on the subject, but because it's one of the few books written from the perspective of the Navajo Code Talker himself. These are the memories of 90-year-old man, and as such, some of the details are a bit sketchy or flawed, but you really get to see World War II through the eyes of a traditional Navajo. Where the book really shines is when Nez discusses how the ways of war conflicted with Navajo beliefs, and how his war experiences affected his life. Yes, it might have been nice if co-writer Judith Schiess-Avila would have added a bit more historical detail, but it's really unnecessary. Nez's voice and background really come through here, and the effect is like having a nice long talk with the man himself. Well-done.

  16. 5 out of 5

    RJay

    When I first learned about this book, I was intrigued by the concept and looked foward to reading it. I had heard about the Navajo code-talkers but had not realized how significant their role really was. The 29 + 3 Navajo who created and implemented the code, plus the hundreds of others who followed their lead, were true heroes and to be commended. But this book doesn't do any of them justice. In my opinion, that is due to the style of writing, which is all 'tell' and very little 'show'. Even in When I first learned about this book, I was intrigued by the concept and looked foward to reading it. I had heard about the Navajo code-talkers but had not realized how significant their role really was. The 29 + 3 Navajo who created and implemented the code, plus the hundreds of others who followed their lead, were true heroes and to be commended. But this book doesn't do any of them justice. In my opinion, that is due to the style of writing, which is all 'tell' and very little 'show'. Even in a memoir, readers want to feel they are in the middle of the action, and 'telling' what happened only distances the reader from the tension and immediacy of what those involved experienced. My rating is not based on the story's merit ... it's based on the book being poorly written. For readers who have a great deal of patience, this memoir may be well worth readiing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Crow

    Chester Nez was the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers of World War II fame (he died in 2014). I was mentored by an original code talker named Rex Kontz in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He was far too humble to say anything about his service other than he did what was expected and right. Nez not only takes the reader through the horrors of the boarding schools where he learned English and was treated brutally by his teachers, but also describes the extreme danger and remarkab Chester Nez was the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers of World War II fame (he died in 2014). I was mentored by an original code talker named Rex Kontz in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He was far too humble to say anything about his service other than he did what was expected and right. Nez not only takes the reader through the horrors of the boarding schools where he learned English and was treated brutally by his teachers, but also describes the extreme danger and remarkable courage of the men who carried the secret code in the Pacific against the Japanese that won the war. He tells of his heartbreaking return to a life of hard work, little money, and virtually no credit for the astounding contribution he and other code talkers made. This book will make you proud of these heroes and sad about how we treated them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    MaryLynn

    I don't love nonfiction, and I don't enjoy books about war (Killer Angels being the exception), so I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It starts slow because it begins with the battle on Guadalcanal. But then it goes back to the childhood of Chester Nez, one of the original 29 code talkers in WWII. I learned so much about the Navajo, and because I had started to care about Chester, I found the battles in the Pacific during WWII much more interesting than I would have supposed. I I don't love nonfiction, and I don't enjoy books about war (Killer Angels being the exception), so I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It starts slow because it begins with the battle on Guadalcanal. But then it goes back to the childhood of Chester Nez, one of the original 29 code talkers in WWII. I learned so much about the Navajo, and because I had started to care about Chester, I found the battles in the Pacific during WWII much more interesting than I would have supposed. It is written very simply, without any glorification of the individual, his people or the war.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lncropper

    I really loved this book! It is a memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers. Even though it is hard to read about his war experiences, it is also inspiring. I absolutely recommend it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    As is evident by the title, this is an extraordinary memoir by one of the Original 29 Code Talkers (officially, 29--32, by Chester's count because he includes 3 men who helped develop the code). It details Chester's life from his early years in the Checkerboard through his war years and beyond. While the primary focus is on his time in the Marines helping to develop the code and then putting it to use in the Pacific Theater, we learn quite a bit about what it was like for a young Navajo to grow As is evident by the title, this is an extraordinary memoir by one of the Original 29 Code Talkers (officially, 29--32, by Chester's count because he includes 3 men who helped develop the code). It details Chester's life from his early years in the Checkerboard through his war years and beyond. While the primary focus is on his time in the Marines helping to develop the code and then putting it to use in the Pacific Theater, we learn quite a bit about what it was like for a young Navajo to grow up pre-1940. Of course, life for Native Americans on the reservations was never easy and the forced relocation onto the reservations was a dark period in our history, but Chester considered his home life to be fairly happy until the white men decided to decimate Navajo herds because of over-grazing. Not only did this wipe out the wealth of Navajo families, but since the government used Navajos to enforce the thinning of the herds it also created distrust and sowed division among the people. It was amazing to read how Chester and the other young Navajo men bravely used the very language that their white school teachers had tried to strip from them to save the country they loved. How they courageously laid their lives on the line for a country that had oppressed and restricted them--and that would never treat them as equals when they weren't wearing the uniform of their country. Heck--the U.S. Army soldiers that Chester was sent to help at one point nearly killed him--accusing him of being a Japanese soldier in a stolen uniform. All because he did not look like the standard G.I. Joe. It was heartening to read that the Marine commanders did recognize their worth...and a number treated their men as equals, regardless of rank. It is a shame that enough of us don't carry that over into everyday life. Chester tells his story with humor and humility. Others call him and his fellow Code Talkers heroes. He never claims that title for himself, saying that he merely did what he knew he could do--as well as he could do it. He speaks of family and friendship--of all the things that made the fight worth taking up. He tells us of the bravery of others and shows us how important this piece of our shared history was. First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I enjoyed this a lot. It seemed like it was going to be pretty heavily focused on his military time at the beginning of the book, but it soon backed up to talk about his life leading up to the war. Of course, there was a lot about wartime, but I like that I got other information and context, as well.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Fascinating part of history. It amazes me that the Navajo men were so willing to help after the awful history of how the USA has treated Native Americans. Their contributions were invaluable and I’m glad they were able to be honored for them.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    A kid from the navajo tribe gets shipped off to a boarding school where he is taught the the navajo language is useless...Until he joins the marines to be a code talker and send codes in his native tongue during wwII.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Code Talker” by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila, published by Berkley Caliber. Category – Memoir Chester Nez is the only surviving member of the original “Code Talkers”. In 1942 Japan declared war on the United States by attacking the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor. Japan had seized control of just about all the islands in the South Pacific. The United States had to take control of these islands to win the war. A major problem for the United States was that Japan was able to inter “Code Talker” by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila, published by Berkley Caliber. Category – Memoir Chester Nez is the only surviving member of the original “Code Talkers”. In 1942 Japan declared war on the United States by attacking the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor. Japan had seized control of just about all the islands in the South Pacific. The United States had to take control of these islands to win the war. A major problem for the United States was that Japan was able to intercept our coded messages and knew in advance what military actions we were taking. An ingenious plan was put in place to confuse the Japanese. All radio transmissions would be made in the Navajo language. A language, that was never written down and was very difficult to learn and understand. This baffled the Japanese so much that they never were able to break the code. The coded was so important to the United States that the “Code Talkers” were sworn never to tell anyone of what they actually did during the war. Their actions and the code were classified because the United States thought that it might be used in other situations. The secret Navajo code was kept for twenty-three years and was not declassified until 1968. These brave Navajo’s were now able to tell their families and the world what they did in the South Pacific during World War Two. This book also tells of the early life of Chester Nez, growing up on an Indian Reservation and his struggle to obtain an education. It tells of the deep chasm that existed between the white man’s world and that of the Navajos. It also tells of Chester’s struggle to readjust after coming home from the South Pacific. He was haunted by nightmares that probably found their basis in the fact that he could not open up and tell of his time in the South Pacific. The one major theme that keeps coming up throughout the book is the total dedication that these men had to the United States. They never wavered in their support to the country that took their land away and forced them to live on reservations.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Roth

    "If the Japanese Imperial Intelligence Team could have decoded the Navajo messages ... the history of the Pacific War might have turned out completely different". This was an editorial of a Tokyo newspaper soon after the end of World War II. "Code Talker" was the only memoir of one of the original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, Chester Nez. This was a fascinating history book, told in first person by Chester to author Judith Schiess Avila. The reader learns of Chester's childhood on "the Checkerboa "If the Japanese Imperial Intelligence Team could have decoded the Navajo messages ... the history of the Pacific War might have turned out completely different". This was an editorial of a Tokyo newspaper soon after the end of World War II. "Code Talker" was the only memoir of one of the original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, Chester Nez. This was a fascinating history book, told in first person by Chester to author Judith Schiess Avila. The reader learns of Chester's childhood on "the Checkerboard", his years at boarding school and his decision to join the Marines and become one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. The descriptions of the battles of WWII are very real and the reader becomes totally immersed in the war. The code was never broken by the Japanese and was kept Top Secret until 1968. The book's later chapters cover Chester's post-war life, his marriage and children and the heartache of losing some of his children. The reader's heart jumps for joy after the Code Talkers are recognized for their bravery and secrecy many times over, including by President Bush in 2001. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Native American history, war history or any lover of biographies. Top notch. I was sad to learn of his passing earlier this month. RIP Mr. Nez. Thank you for you and your brothers' service to our country.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I enjoyed reading this book because this story shows how America can use the unique talents of our population for innovative solutions to the problems confronting our nation. The Navajo language is very complex and as of the 1930's was not written down, so the men who spoke Navajo were able to pass secret information without the Japanese breaking the code. I also respect the courage and self-reliance of Chester Nez and the other Code Talkers. They excelled in Marine Boot Camp because they were r I enjoyed reading this book because this story shows how America can use the unique talents of our population for innovative solutions to the problems confronting our nation. The Navajo language is very complex and as of the 1930's was not written down, so the men who spoke Navajo were able to pass secret information without the Japanese breaking the code. I also respect the courage and self-reliance of Chester Nez and the other Code Talkers. They excelled in Marine Boot Camp because they were raised in the harsh environment of sheep herders. They knew how to live close to the land and were not soft or lazy. I am very glad that Chester Nez met Judith Schiess Avila and they collaborated on this great book. As the WWII generation departs us there is a possibility that the record of their deeds could be lost. At least this story is now laid down in black ink on white pages.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katy Berman

    This memoir was written by one of the last surviving Navajo code talkers of World War II and is the only memoir published by one of this group of Navajo Marines. The original Navajo code talkers were recruited to develop a top secret code based on their own, (at the time) unwritten language. They were sent to the Pacific Theatre, where they fought alongside other Marines against the Japanese, a formidable foe who had managed to crack every previous code the Americans had used. This code has been This memoir was written by one of the last surviving Navajo code talkers of World War II and is the only memoir published by one of this group of Navajo Marines. The original Navajo code talkers were recruited to develop a top secret code based on their own, (at the time) unwritten language. They were sent to the Pacific Theatre, where they fought alongside other Marines against the Japanese, a formidable foe who had managed to crack every previous code the Americans had used. This code has been acclaimed as being an important factor in defeating the Japanese and saving many lives. The Navajo code talkers were not allowed to talk about the code or even reveal its existence until it was declassified in 1968. Although Chester Nez was one of the "original 29" who developed the code, more than 400 Navajo Marines were subsequently trained to use the code while fighting the Japanese. The full code is appended in the back of this book. This memoir is not only about the war against the Japanese, which Nez describes in riveting detail. It also tells of his life, before joining the Marine,s on the "Checkerboard" area of New Mexico (not part of the large Navajo reservation which spans northern Arizona and New Mexico), including attending U.S. government run boarding schools where the students were punished for speaking Navajo, even when they didn't know a word of English, as well as his life in a traditional Navajo family. After the war, he went to college, met his future wife, married and had several children, during which time he suffered several tragedies. In spite of this, he said he had lived his life "100%", which had been a happy one overall. Aided by Judith Schiess Avila in writing the memoir published in 2011, Nez included a section of photographs of his life before, during and after the war, as well as small maps of the islands on which he participated in the war effort. He died at the age of 93 in 2014.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennice Mckillop

    Wow! And again I say Wow! WWII. South Pacific. Japanese. US Army, Navy, Marines, Navajo Code Talkers. This is a book one should own. Its about a Native American man and how he made a difference fighting in the war. He and about 390 all together It’s historical yet I bet a great many Americans never heard of Cpl Chester Nez & the team of Navajo Code Talkers. This is his autobio as told to Judith Schiess Avila. Thank U for this book. Thank U for the emotions it evokes; the lessons learned; the secr Wow! And again I say Wow! WWII. South Pacific. Japanese. US Army, Navy, Marines, Navajo Code Talkers. This is a book one should own. Its about a Native American man and how he made a difference fighting in the war. He and about 390 all together It’s historical yet I bet a great many Americans never heard of Cpl Chester Nez & the team of Navajo Code Talkers. This is his autobio as told to Judith Schiess Avila. Thank U for this book. Thank U for the emotions it evokes; the lessons learned; the secret revealed. His voice. Their voices. I’m hoping that those who gave it 1 or 2 or 3 stars will return 2 the book & read it again with eyes wide open. Our freedom in this country was not bestowed freely. & some of the very people who were marginalized came up 2 bat and served this country with all they had, their hearts & lives. The end of the story is that they were finally honored for their service. Our heartfelt thanks to these brave people.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Souza

    Fascinating book about the experience of one member of the Original 29, or as he would have preferred it, the Original 32. I found his younger years on the Checkerboard fascinating, was frustrated with his experiences in boarding school, and appalled to learn about the Great Livestock Massacre. I cannot imagine joining up after that - Mr. Nez was a rare patriot. During the middle section of the book, we learned about the process of creating the code, and read first-hand accounts of the Battles of Fascinating book about the experience of one member of the Original 29, or as he would have preferred it, the Original 32. I found his younger years on the Checkerboard fascinating, was frustrated with his experiences in boarding school, and appalled to learn about the Great Livestock Massacre. I cannot imagine joining up after that - Mr. Nez was a rare patriot. During the middle section of the book, we learned about the process of creating the code, and read first-hand accounts of the Battles of Guadalcanal, Guam, Peleliu, and others. It was interesting, though admittedly, scene by scene battle history is generally not my favorite reading. Mr. Nez's life was full of ups and downs, and I'm grateful to have learned from his experiences. I will carry his story on.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen (itpdx)

    Chester Nez’s story has two fascinating parts, the experience of being a Navajo in the 20th century and his wartime service. His descriptions of the land and way of the Navajo on the Checkerboard are sometimes lyrical. The difficult life at boarding schools and the prejudice that he experienced are good reminders of the US’s horrible treatment of Native Americans. His recounting of how the code was developed by the original code talkers is fascinating. His personal experiences in war gave me a r Chester Nez’s story has two fascinating parts, the experience of being a Navajo in the 20th century and his wartime service. His descriptions of the land and way of the Navajo on the Checkerboard are sometimes lyrical. The difficult life at boarding schools and the prejudice that he experienced are good reminders of the US’s horrible treatment of Native Americans. His recounting of how the code was developed by the original code talkers is fascinating. His personal experiences in war gave me a real feel for what US troops experienced in the South Pacific. His comment that his own children are not fluent in Navajo is sad.

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