And Then There Were Three: One of the Last Living Navajo Code Talkers Dies at Age 98


Rising up in rural New Mexico, Samuel Sandoval was discouraged by Christian educators from talking his native Navajo, or Diné. However when he joined the Marines throughout World Warfare II, it turned his secret weapon: Sandoval, together with a whole lot of different males from Navajo Nation, used the normal spoken language to transmit coded army messages within the Pacific Theater, befuddling Japanese cryptologists and finally serving to to win the battle. 

Sandoval, one of many final surviving Navajo Code Talkers, died on Friday, July 29, on the age of 98, based on the Related Press. Three residing members from the group stay: Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr. and Thomas H. Begay. 

Born in 1922, Sandoval recalled he “didn’t know what I used to be entering into” — or how his heritage would form his position— whereas enlisting on March 26, 1943. Solely after finishing boot camp in San Diego and being despatched to Camp Pendleton at Oceanside, California, did he meet different Navajo recruits and be taught they had been to develop their very own top-secret code, full with army phrases and expressions that didn’t but exist. “It was fairly a activity,” he recalled in a recorded speech at Oregon’s Milwaukie Excessive College in late 2005.

Every letter of the English alphabet was initially assigned a Navajo code phrase, Sandoval advised the Arizona Republic in 2019. “We mentioned the Japanese might simply decipher these 26, let’s add on to it,” he mentioned. “So we did.” Along with assigning one to 3 code phrases to every letter, the group — fluent in each English and Navajo — got here up with analogous phrases for patrol planes (“ga-gih,” a.ok.a “crow”) and different fight expressions. They finally coined and memorized a whole lot of code phrases to make use of within the area.

Shipped off to the South Pacific island of New Caledonia in September 1943, Sandoval joined the Marines on Guadalcanal following preliminary operations, Bougainville, Guam, Peleliu and Okinawa. He and different Code Talkers tirelessly communicated troop actions, techniques, orders and different data through telephone and radio. 

Sandoval obtained quite a few recognitions and awards as a veteran, together with a Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, a Fight Motion Ribbon, a China Service Medal, a World Warfare II Victory Medal, a Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp and an Asiatic-Pacific Marketing campaign Medal with a silver star, based on the Navajo Nation. However for years he remained silent about his service, not even informing his spouse he was a Code Talker till a month or so after their marriage. 

The Navajo Code was declassified in 1968, enabling Sandoval to ultimately share his story in a e-book and documentary movie. Public recognition of the Code Talkers elevated in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 14 Navajo Code Talkers Day, and the 2002 movie “Windtalkers” solidified their fame. (“All I can say is it’s a film — a Nicholas Cage film,” Sandoval joked to his Milwaukie Excessive College viewers.)

Sandoval was on Okinawa in 1945 when “phrase came visiting radio within the Navajo Code, and I obtained it, that the Japanese had surrendered,” he recalled to college students in 2005. He and his fellow Code Talkers celebrated, however their return to America was nonetheless far off: just some days later they boarded a ship to China for occupation responsibility. A couple of months later, in December 1945, Sandoval recalled, “the commanding officer referred to as us earlier than we left China. And he mentioned ‘Son, right here’s a chunk of paper. Right here’s my pen. Proper on the prime of the road.’”

Sandoval regarded the shape and realized it was to enroll in one other 4 years of service. 

“No, officer, you possibly can have it again,” he mentioned. “I’m going dwelling.” 

Memorial particulars for Sandoval are pending, and a granddaughter has launched a crowdfunding marketing campaign to cowl bills.


this text first appeared in world battle II journal

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