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Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII Hardcover – September 6, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 354 customer reviews

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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Nez's fascinating memoir details...[keeping] U.S. transmissions safe from the Japanese during WWII...[R]eaders will be captivated by stories of Nez's childhood and his days as a Marine."
Publisher's Weekly

"You don't need to be a fan of World War II literature to appreciate this memoir by Chester Nez and his co-author Judith Schiess Avila, a code talker scholar."
Associated Press (AP)

"A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation."
Kirkus Reviews  (The World's Toughest Book Critics)

“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: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

“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

“A remarkably affecting first-person account of the Navajo Marines who served their country with distinction through some of the worst battles of the Pacific theater.”—The Washington Times



From the Trade Paperback edition.

From the Author

My friend, Navajo code talker Chester Nez, died on June 4, 2014, at the age of 93.  He was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. To honor him, New Mexico flags were flown at half mast. Police closed the 55 miles of freeway leading from his funeral in Albuquerque to the cemetery, so the funeral cortege could pass. Drivers, pulled to the side of the highway, stood by the road saluting, while 400+ motorcycle honor guards followed the casket. A fine farewell for a humble man who was not even issued a birth certificate back in 1921.

I first met Chester in January, 2007, and recorded his stories for three years. Writing Chester's memoir changed both of our lives for the better. I gained a second family and a deeper understanding of a culture different from my own, and Chester was thrilled that readers would learn how he and his fellow Navajos, the WWII code talkers, helped their country win WWII.

This is a story that remained a secret for too long.  I hope that you will enjoy reading our book as much as we enjoyed writing it!!

The book's dedication says a lot about Chester's desire to have all code talkers recognized:

This book is dedicated to the 420 World War II Navajo Marine code talkers - men who developed and implemented an unbreakable communications system that helped ensure the American defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific War. 

When the war ended, other combatants were free to discuss their roles in the service and to receive recognition for their actions.  But the Marines instructed us, the code talkers, to keep our accomplishments secret. We kept our own counsel, hiding our deeds from family, friends and acquaintances.  Our code was finally declassified in 1968, twenty-three years after the war's end.

This book may be my story, but it is written for all of these men. 

May they and their loved ones walk in beauty.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; First Edition, First Printing edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425244237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425244234
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (354 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
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 the 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 living as a minority. The role of the code talkers remained secret for decades.
After meeting Nez, Avila also put one foot in front of herself for four years to bring his unique personal story to light. The years spent interviewing Nez, researching and polishing this story were well spent. Her first book is considered to be an "important work" by historians and a "great read" in general.
The human interest of this compelling story makes it a perfect choice for anyone simply looking for a good book.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can only advise prospective readers to be very careful if you have work that has to be done ... you will NOT want to put this book down once you start reading. As a former high school teacher I wish that this book was required reading for every teen. The work ethic, dedication, and moral character demonstrated by Chester Nez is genuinely inspirational. I learned a great deal about the Navajo culture and values, and how these values were integral to their success in battle, and their entire life. The campaigns on Guadalcanal, Guam, Peleliu and Bougainville owe a great deal of their success to the actions of the Navajo Code Talkers. Many of the code talkers have gone to their reward unable to relate their invaluable contribution to winning the war in the Pacific. We, as Americans, are truly fortunate that Chester Nez finally told the story of these incredible individuals.

Semper Fi, Chester ... I can only hope that some day I may have the honor of meeting you.
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Imagine what it must be like to be told that your culture and people are inferior, and that you must never speak the language of your parents and ancestors. Every time you try to speak it, you're punished in school.

Then, the next thing you know, the government is relying on you to develop a code within that forbidden language. A code so difficult to crack that even members of your own culture who speak the language will not be able to understand what it means.

Chester Nez describes it best:

"The officer wasted no time. He looked around the room at each of us, the twenty-nine carefully selected Marine recruits, and told us we were to use our native language to devise an unbreakable code. I read expressions of shock on every face. A code based on our language? After we'd been so severely punished in boarding school for speaking it?"

Chester is the last living representative of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. The code language he and his fellow recruits developed and used in battle was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war. Historians agree that without it, the outcome of the war would have been completely different.

This month, Chester published his memoir, based on 80 hours of interviews with Judith Schiess Avila. Chester's story, not to mention his ability to stay calm while interpreting, is definitely worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A long overdue recognition of our Code/Wind talkers who helped us win the war in the Pacific. The courage and determination of these unsung American HEROS deserves the respect and recognition of all Americans. They went from Island to Island without R&R and were expected to be more than Marines, and they were. They got no rest or glory, and still did their job flawlessly. Without their work the war would have lasted much longer at best, and we could have lost at worse.
Paul C Covel
USNR Gator Navy
GMG2 1961-1963
USS San Marcos LSD 25
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Format: Hardcover
Navajo Chester Nez, who leaves his Indian Reservation to join the Marine Corps at the age of 17, tells a humble story of a group of fellow Navajos who participated in virtually every Marine assault in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, because, as Navajo speaking code talkers, they were too valuable to relieve. So they went into hell on numerous occasions, without complaint, afraid, but not so afraid that they failed to do their duty. At the time they joined the Marines, Navajos still did not have the right to vote, nor did many on the reservation even have the luxury of electricity during the 1940s, and yet they loved their land and were proud of whence they came. It wasn't until 1968, when their code talking activities had been de-classified, that they were finally extended the recognition they deserved, including visits to the White House to receive awards from their Commander-in-Chief. Judith Schiess, who writes the book in collaboration with Chester Nez does a superb job in capturing the tropical battlefields of the Pacific as well as the subtle nuances of Navajo culture. Inspirational - truly.
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