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Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWIIby Chester Nez
Synopses & Reviews
They came from one street, but death found them in many places . . .
. . .in a distant jungle, a frozen forest, and trapped in the flaming wreckage of a bomber blown from the sky. One died going over a fence during the greatest paratrooper assault in history. Another fell in the biggest battle of World War II. Yet another, riddled with bullets in an audacious act of heroism during a decisive onslaught a world, and a war, away.
All came from a single street in a railroad town called Silvis, Illinois, a tiny stretch of dirt barely a block-and-a-half long, with an unparalleled history.
The twenty-two Mexican-American families who lived on that one street sent fifty-seven of their children to fight in World War II and Koreaand#151;more than any other place that size anywhere in the country. Eight of those children died.
Itand#8217;s a distinction recognized by the Department of Defense, and it earned that rutted, unpaved strip a distinguished name. Today itand#8217;s known as Hero Street.
This is the story of those brave men and their families, how they fought both in battle and to be accepted in an American society that remained biased against them even after they returned home as heroes. Based on interviews with relatives, friends, and soldiers who served alongside the men, as well as personal letters and photographs, The Ghosts of Hero Street is the compelling and inspiring account of a street of soldiersand#151;and menand#151;who would not be denied their dignity or their honor.
"Written with code talker scholar Schiess Avila, Nez's fascinating memoir details his experience as one of the original 29 'code talkers'-a group of Native American soldiers who kept U.S. transmissions safe from the Japanese during WWII. The code they used was developed using Navajo, an entirely spoken language. Most Marines had no idea that Nez or his fellow Navajos were involved with the highly classified code talker mission, and trusted the team despite the era's prevalent racial segregation. Though Nez grew up speaking Navajo, he was sent to government-run boarding schools, and forced to learn English. His facility with both languages allowed him to advance during his career with the Marines, and he counts the day of his enlistment (while still in high school) as the luckiest day of his life. Still, when Nez returned home to New Mexico in 1945, it would be another three years before Native Americans were allowed to vote. Though the last section of the book drifts, readers will be captivated by stories of Nez's childhood and his days as a Marine. "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
This memoir explores the life and times of Chester Nez the last surviving Navajo code-talker of World War II. The personal narrative recounts the development of the unbreakable Navajo code and the daring and courage of the Indian men who helped win the war in the Pacific. The work includes a collection of gloss black and white plates and will be of interest to general readers as well as war historians interested in codes and cryptography. Co-author Avila is a code talker scholar with the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
He never planned on becoming a leader—or a hero...
In November 1944—Sergeant William Meller was just twenty years old. Very soon into the fighting in Huertgen Forest, he found himself promoted to squad leader by attrition, since every single officer in the rifle companies had already been killed or wounded. Meller and his men, living in freezing foxholes and armed only with rifles and a few machine guns and grenades, fought against the Wehrmacht's battle-hardened soldiers and its juggernaut Panzer tanks, all while under withering barrages of artillery fire.
The bravery and determination of Meller and the soldiers of Meller's 28th Infantry Division allowed them to survive what would become the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought in its history. But they would get little respite from the carnage. Almost immediately, they were sent to fight the Germans in the densely forested and bitter-cold Ardennes. Again, Meller and his GI's were vastly outnumbered and out-equipped in the fight which would soon become known as the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's final offensive. The vaunted Wehrmacht threw everything they had in their arsenal against the American dogfaces.
This is the true story of a man in combat who continuously adapted to his circumstances with grace and courage, ultimately transforming himself from an ordinary young GI to a leader who helped show his soldiers, by example, how to survive war.
He is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive—and this is his story . . .
His name wasnt Chester Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didnt stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength—both physical and mental—to excel as a marine.
During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.
About the Author
Chester Nev is a World War II veteran who indispensably served his country as a Navajo code talker. He lives in New Mexico.
Judith Schiess Avila has conducted eighty hours of interviews with Chester Nez and his son. She lives in New Mexico.
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