[CATEGORIES: Book Review, WWII, veterans.]
Subtitled: “The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII”, by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila.
Code talkers were Navajo Indians who developed an unbreakable English-Navajo-English code used while fighting the Japanese in WWII Pacific.
This book is great storytelling. I had the sense throughout the entire book that I was actually listening to Chester speak. (It is written in the first person and nicely done, as I believe Judith Avila did all the writing based on over 75 hours of oral tapes with Chester.) This is a very easy read, which I always appreciate. With a minimum of swear words (the definition of snafu comes to mind) and lack of gruesome detail of Pacific island battles, I think this book is suitable for those from 12 to 112 years of age.
The insights into Navajo life and culture are educational. There is nary a complaint or criticism expressed from Chester throughout his entire life, though historical events such as the Great Livestock Massacre are portrayed factually. I found his childhood of living outdoors and herding sheep and goats inspiring, though the conditions were harsher than those of us not born into it could ever withstand. The Navajo sense of life ‘balance’ seems to have been a foundation that supported Chester through all difficulties.
I had heard of the code talkers but didn’t know how they were used. This book explains how they were frontline radio communicators in the midst of the horrible battles of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Peleliu, and the like. Chester spent over two years in the Pacific theater. War is hell and this book is another testament to that.
Chester is 92 as of this writing. (Sep. 2013.) He has partial or full amputations of both legs due to diabetes. He was scheduled to speak to a WWII reunion I attended in late August (I’m a child of a WWII veteran) but he was ill and unable. Co-author Judith Avila gave us a captivating talk instead.
Thank you to Chester and Judith for writing this book.
If you are looking for pathos, crimes against humanity (other than WWII itself), or disgustingly vivid descriptions of battle, this ain’t it. If you are interested in learning about the code talkers, getting a taste of Navajo culture, and learning about the life balance of one Navajo from the 1920s to the present, then I highly recommend this book.
[I gave this book 5 stars in my review at Goodreads.com. Bear in mind five stars is not the same between books such as Atlas Shrugged, War and Peace, and Winnie the Pooh. Code Talker is a great story of one man’s experiences in life and WWII. I liked it.]