On March 21, the Navajo Code Talkers won another round when the New Mexico State Organization of the Daughters of the American Revolution paid homage to their legacy by unveiling the Navajo Code Talker Monument in the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Three Code Talkers — Roy Hawthorne, Bill Toledo and Chester Nez — attended, as did members of their families and several local dignitaries, including Mayor David Coss.
Most of the approximately 420 young Navajo men who served as Code Talkers — some of whom were as young as 15 when they enlisted —during the War in the Pacific hailed from the Four Corners region. Before their arrival, the Japanese proved adept at breaking all American codes regarding troop movements in the South Pacific. As Hawthorne put it, the Japanese would often intercept American radio transmissions to say, “Thank you very much for the information. We will be waiting for you.” And they were waiting, he told the Santa Fe New Mexican.
92-year-old Nez, a New Mexican and last surviving of the Original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, recalled joining up at the age of 18. “I was the first one in line,” he said with a big smile during a reception for the Code Talkers at The Lodge at Santa Fe. “I wanted to do something for my country.” He served on four or five different islands over the course of about three years, never getting a break to visit home.
Hawthorne said Thursday’s ceremony is important. “It tells us that there are people who are really sincere in their appreciation of what we have done,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to pass on to our children the legacy that we were afforded to be part of as Navajo Code Talkers. We were successful in turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.”
Toledo put it more succinctly: “We saved a lot of lives with our language.”
The monument is located along a new monument pathway in the veterans cemetery at 501 N. Guadalupe Street, opposite the DeVargas Center. To learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers, go to navajocodetalkers.org and here.
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