One Of The Last Remaining Navajo Code Talkers Passes Away

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With the passing of Alfred K. Newman, the story of the Navajo Code Talkers drifts further into memory.

Newman, who was 94 when he passed, helped Allied forces win the battle over the Japanese during World War II. He served with hundreds of other Native Americans trained to intercept and transmit coded messages to others throughout the Pacific.

“Navajo Code Talker Alfred Newman was a hero, and he stood amongst giants,” tribal President Russell Begaye told the Arizona Republic. “We will be forever grateful for his contributions and bravery, as well as that of each and every one of our Navajo Code Talkers. They are national treasures.”

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The Japanese were unable to break the code for the duration of the war, which was based on Native American language. In one 48-hour period, the Code Talkers transmitted 800 error-free messages,

Were it not for the Navajos,” signal officer Maj. Howard Connor told CNN, “the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”


Source: Wikimedia Commons
Navajo Code Talkers, Saipan, June 1944.

The US military experimented with using the Choctaw language to transmit messages during the first World War, but the Germans managed to decipher the code, Navajo is not as accessible to non-native speakers, and confounded the Japanese. It confused some of the Americans, too.

“This Navajo code is terrific,” wrote Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division, after overseeing the assault on Guadalcanal with just over a dozen Navajo Code Talkers. “The enemy never understood it. We don’t understand it either, but it works. Send us some more Navajos.”


Source: flickr/USMC Archives
Also participating in the Bougainville operation in December 1943 were (left to right, front row): Pvt Earl Johnny, Pvt Kee Etsicitty, Pvt John V. Goodluck, and PFC David Jordan. Rear row, left to right: Pvt Jack C. Morgan, Pvt George H. Kirk, Pvt Tom H. Jones, Cpl Henry Bake, Jr.

Newman served in the First Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment and Third Marine Division, 12 News reports. He fought at Bougainville Island, Guam, Iwo Jima, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, New Georgia and New Caledonia before coming home to start a family.


Source: Kadena Air Base
Private First Class Preston Toledo and Private First Class Frank Toledo, cousins and Navajos attached to a Marine Artillery Regiment in the South Pacific, relay orders over a field radio in their native tongue July 7, 1943.

The WWII veteran is survived by his wife, Betsy; five children, 13 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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