Judith Schiess Avila
AUTHOR

Judith Schiess Avila

I am still pinching myself... I had the good luck to meet Chester Nez and his son Mike in 2007. Chester agreed to let me tell his story, and after three years of interviews, I committed his fascinating memoir "Code Talker" to paper. The award winning memoir has become a best-seller. I worked as a social worker, an air traffic controller, and a computer consultant before discovering writing. I grew up in Thornwood, NY and graduated from Westlake High School. Next, I earned my BA from Duke University. I now live in New Mexico, near Albuquerque. The population out here is a fascinating blend of Native American, Hispanic, Mexican, African American, and Anglo. On to our memoir... In the Marines in WWII, Chester was one of the top-secret Navajo code talkers. As an "original" code talker, he was among the 29 men who developed and implemented the secret code. (He died on June 4, 2014, the last of those 29 men.) The Navajo code uses both English and Navajo, and it is doubly encrypted. It is the only spoken code in modern warfare that has never been cracked. Not even other Navajos could decipher the code! This memoir is the only one ever written by an original Navajo code talker. Chester's story digs deep, chronicling the nitty gritty of his childhood years herding sheep and attending boarding school, and delving into his time fighting in the Pacific War. In many ways it preserves the story of an entire generation of Navajos, touching upon their customs and their integration into modern American life. Who were these elite Native American Marines who developed and implemented the unbreakable code? Even the men fighting side-by-side with the code talkers were denied knowledge of their top secret assignment. But the Navajo code talkers were so crucial to the war effort that their ranks expanded to include approximately 420 men. And after the war, the men were forbidden to speak, even to their families, of the covert service they performed on behalf of their nation. Only in 1968, twenty-three years after the war ended, was the code finally declassified. In 2001 the men were honored with Congressional Gold and Silver Medals. Reading "Code Talker" puts you in the foxhole with Chester and some of the bravest Marines ever to fight for their country.
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