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Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,547 ratings  ·  758 reviews
The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII-includes the actual Navajo Code and rare photos. Although more than 400 Navajos served in the military during World War II as top-secret code talkers, even those fighting shoulder to shoulder with them were not told of their covert function. And, after the war, the Navajos were forbidden to speak ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Berkley
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Christy Chester Nez seemed to write with respect about his experiences. I don't remember him being graphic. He did cite some problems with his marriage toward…moreChester Nez seemed to write with respect about his experiences. I don't remember him being graphic. He did cite some problems with his marriage toward the end of the book, but didn't go into specifics.
No sexual content.

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Petra Kiss
It is arguable whether the Japanese or the Nazis were the most cruel in WWII, neither showed the slightest mercy or even acknowledgement of their enemies' humanity. Far from it, they each went all out to exterminate from the earth those they felt didn't deserve even life. All in the name of some ugly character with a warped philosophy or an equally warped divine emperor both of whom inspired religious devotion as if they were God incarnate.

Now read this, from Code Talker:

"The Japanese who held G
Amber Foxx
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Veterans’ Honor Song

I read this book a while back, before I joined Goodreads. The author, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, died yesterday. Before I read this book, I'd heard of him and the work this group of Marines did, but I had no understanding of the danger they endured.

The book not only tells of the development of the code, and the battles in which it was used, but shares the author’s life growing up on the Navajo reservation, and his life after the war. His humor, humility
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Code Talker is the biography of Navajo code talker, Chester Nez. Chester was one of the original Marine Code Talkers and he wrote a fairly interesting biography. I hadn’t realized just how important the Navajo code was to the Pacific War. Prior to the Navajo code, the Marines used a cumbersome code that took 4 hours to transmit, decode, and disseminate and the Japanese could break it. The Navajo code could be transmitted, decoded and disseminated in 4 minutes. Because of this, it was much easier ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, military
A (highly personal) memoir, in the truest sense of the word, but also an utterly fascinating peek into an extraordinary footnote in military (particularly WWII, Pacific Theater) history. The book contains more than enough informative history to satisfy military history buffs, the author's experiences make a cat's nine lives seem modest, and the author sprinkled the book with sufficient seasonings (or tastes and reminiscences) of Navajo culture, religion, philosophy, and ... well ... beauty and g ...more
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
The use of Navajo "code talkers" by the Marine Corps in World War II makes for a marvelous tale, in the hands of a skilled writer; unfortunately, Ms. Avila doesn't fit the job description. With this kind of subject matter, Code Talker could, and should, have been a better read.

Perhaps, in the future, this story will find a more adept voice.
Beck Frost
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Open to the pictures section and look at the Chester Nez featured on the last page. The one with him sitting with his kids and grandkids. It becomes very easy to imagine this man sitting and engaging with the woman who interviewed him. This is the man whose voice enters your head and you see his shoulders move up and down. The occasional hand expression. The laughter when he remembers something funny. This book feels alive with his simple way of telling the story that is his life as he remembers ...more
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Su Armitage
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really really liked this book. It's many books in one - a book on religion, a biography, and a history of Native Americans in the Pacific in World War 2. Nez provdes a large window into Navajo culture and the foundation of its belief system. With the strength and support of his family, Nez succeeded in the white man's world. As a small child, he was sent to an English-only boarding school far away from his homeland, run by an administration that had no interest in the children as people, but s ...more
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: wwii, biography

I guess I'm going to rate this differently than most. I thought the part about creating the Navajo code was interesting, but as a whole, it felt the book was more like reading a stranger's diary. Shortly after moving to AZ, I visited the Heard Museum, which is primarily dedicated to Native American culture. As part of their tour, you get a total indoctrination into the horrors of the White Man. After having heard enough of that I left. Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but I refuse to feel g
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Chester Nez was raised on 'the Rez'. As a young man he was taken miles from his home to the "White School". They cut his hair, changed his name, and like so many, had his language nearly beaten out of him.

During World War II, when the Japanese were breaking every code, when young American soldiers were dying at alarming rates in the South Pacific, a secret plan was formulated.

The United States Marine Corps sent men to the Navajo Reservations of the Southwest, looking for Native American's who we
Karen Fisher-Alaniz
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the memoir of Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29 Navajo code talkers. With so many books, information, and even a movie on the subject, some might argue that we already know all there is to know. Right? Wrong! Mr. Nez's book, along with co-author Judith Avila is a treasure trove of personal, firsthand information. He is the only one of the code talkers to write a memoir. That is what makes this a powerful memoir. Clearly in his own voice, we learn all about what it ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Fascinating memoir of one of the last original code talkers of WWII. I loved the story and the richness of details about his life, however; I give it 3 stars because it just felt flat. And what a pity because it's a fascinating story. I wish his memoir had been written by a better skilled writer, but with that being said, I would still recommend it. ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Native men growing up in the 30s were uniquely equipped to excel at a top secret wartime mission. They were in that position because of a bizarre combination of the native life they loved and the US government's attempt to take it away from them. Their commitment to defending America after cruel treatment by the government is phenomenal, they were able to separate their love of country from abuse by the American government. On a much broader scale, that is a life lesson that is going to stick wi ...more
Linda Owen
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not a work of literature, but a great piece of "as told to" reporting, augmented with painstaking historical and cultural research. Against the hellish backdrop of the war in the South Pacific, we are shown the bravery, dignity and sense of duty that the Navajo code talkers brought to their assignment. These were key values in a culture that had survived everything the White Man did to try to eradicate it, including boarding schools, the Long Walk and the Great Livestock Massacre. In spite of it ...more
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2011
Code Talker is one of the best books I've read on the subject of the Navajo Code Talkers, not because it gives you lots of details on the subject, but because it's one of the few books written from the perspective of the Navajo Code Talker himself. These are the memories of 90-year-old man, and as such, some of the details are a bit sketchy or flawed, but you really get to see World War II through the eyes of a traditional Navajo. Where the book really shines is when Nez discusses how the ways o ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
When I first learned about this book, I was intrigued by the concept and looked foward to reading it. I had heard about the Navajo code-talkers but had not realized how significant their role really was. The 29 + 3 Navajo who created and implemented the code, plus the hundreds of others who followed their lead, were true heroes and to be commended. But this book doesn't do any of them justice. In my opinion, that is due to the style of writing, which is all 'tell' and very little 'show'. Even in ...more
David Crow
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chester Nez was the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers of World War II fame (he died in 2014). I was mentored by an original code talker named Rex Kontz in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He was far too humble to say anything about his service other than he did what was expected and right. Nez not only takes the reader through the horrors of the boarding schools where he learned English and was treated brutally by his teachers, but also describes the extreme danger and remarkab ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don't love nonfiction, and I don't enjoy books about war (Killer Angels being the exception), so I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It starts slow because it begins with the battle on Guadalcanal. But then it goes back to the childhood of Chester Nez, one of the original 29 code talkers in WWII. I learned so much about the Navajo, and because I had started to care about Chester, I found the battles in the Pacific during WWII much more interesting than I would have supposed. I ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this a lot. It seemed like it was going to be pretty heavily focused on his military time at the beginning of the book, but it soon backed up to talk about his life leading up to the war. Of course, there was a lot about wartime, but I like that I got other information and context, as well.
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book! It is a memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers. Even though it is hard to read about his war experiences, it is also inspiring. I absolutely recommend it.
As is evident by the title, this is an extraordinary memoir by one of the Original 29 Code Talkers (officially, 29--32, by Chester's count because he includes 3 men who helped develop the code). It details Chester's life from his early years in the Checkerboard through his war years and beyond. While the primary focus is on his time in the Marines helping to develop the code and then putting it to use in the Pacific Theater, we learn quite a bit about what it was like for a young Navajo to grow ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating part of history. It amazes me that the Navajo men were so willing to help after the awful history of how the USA has treated Native Americans. Their contributions were invaluable and I’m glad they were able to be honored for them.
Brian Hale
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good book tells of the pride that the native Americans have and love for their country. How they saved lives by using Navajo language ,then it took over twenty years to be recognized.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A kid from the navajo tribe gets shipped off to a boarding school where he is taught the the navajo language is useless...Until he joins the marines to be a code talker and send codes in his native tongue
during wwII.
Paul Pessolano
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
“Code Talker” by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila, published by Berkley Caliber.

Category – Memoir

Chester Nez is the only surviving member of the original “Code Talkers”.

In 1942 Japan declared war on the United States by attacking the United States Naval Base in Pearl Harbor. Japan had seized control of just about all the islands in the South Pacific. The United States had to take control of these islands to win the war.

A major problem for the United States was that Japan was able to inter
Wesley Roth
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
"If the Japanese Imperial Intelligence Team could have decoded the Navajo messages ... the history of the Pacific War might have turned out completely different". This was an editorial of a Tokyo newspaper soon after the end of World War II. "Code Talker" was the only memoir of one of the original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, Chester Nez.

This was a fascinating history book, told in first person by Chester to author Judith Schiess Avila. The reader learns of Chester's childhood on "the Checkerboa
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book because this story shows how America can use the unique talents of our population for innovative solutions to the problems confronting our nation. The Navajo language is very complex and as of the 1930's was not written down, so the men who spoke Navajo were able to pass secret information without the Japanese breaking the code.
I also respect the courage and self-reliance of Chester Nez and the other Code Talkers. They excelled in Marine Boot Camp because they were r
Ron Jensen
Interesting story and good history, but it was so poorly written that it was hard to be engaged by this book. The author really had no voice - it was impossible to tell if the first-person account was that of Chester Nez (it definitely did not sound like a first-hand account) or the interviewer Judith Schuss Avila. She explains in the prologue that she started writing a biography based on interviewers, and then switched it to Chester's story. You are left with no-one's story. I really fault Avil ...more
Katy Berman
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This memoir was written by one of the last surviving Navajo code talkers of World War II and is the only memoir published by one of this group of Navajo Marines. The original Navajo code talkers were recruited to develop a top secret code based on their own, (at the time) unwritten language. They were sent to the Pacific Theatre, where they fought alongside other Marines against the Japanese, a formidable foe who had managed to crack every previous code the Americans had used. This code has been ...more
John Babb
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An autobiography by one of the original 29 Navaho Code Talkers - these were the guys who actually developed the secret code during WWII. Until that point, the Japanese had broken every code the Americans had tried, and it was having a dramatic effect on the war effort. When Chester Nez and his fellow code talkers entered the war in December 1942 at Guadalcanal, their code was never broken. Chester Nez's story begins as a young boy, working his family's sheep ranch on the Checkerboard in New Mexi ...more
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Chester Nez was an American veteran of World War II. He was the last original Navajo code talker who served in the United States Marine Corps during the war. (taken from Wikipedia)

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