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Navajo Flags Fly at Half-Staff for Code Talker

Navajo Flags Fly at Half-Staff for Code Talker
January 19
08:48 2016
ernest yazhe small pic

Ernest Yazhe

Another Navajo Code Talker has fallen.

Flags on the Navajo Nation will fly at half-staff from January 19 to January 22 in honor of Ernest Yazhe, 92.

“The Navajo language was the secret weapon that brought victory to the Allied Forces and ended the war in the Pacific,” Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.

The Word War II veteran died of renal failure in Salt Lake City on January 5, according to his daughter, Melissa Yazhe.

Yazhe, from Naschitti, N.M., served on the front lines in the Pacific theater.

The Navajo Code Talkers began operating in the spring of 1942. There were 29 original Code Talkers. Yazhe, who enlisted at 19, joined the Code Talkers in September of 1942.

His older brother Harrison Yazhe, who died in 2004, also became a Code Talker. Both brothers’ names appeared in the Congressional record on the list of Code Talkers confirmed by the Marines.

A third brother, U.S. Army Private First Class Silas Yazzie, died in combat in Italy in 1944.

The brothers had slightly different last names because officials with schools or the military recorded them with different phonetic spellings over the years, his family said.

Ernest Yazhe served in Guam and Okinawa campaigns, and once heard Japanese soldiers utter the words “Code Talkers” as they discussed the transmissions.

The Japanese were “sorry that they couldn’t understand it,” he said in a 2013 video produced by the Utah National Guard.

After Japan surrendered, he helped repatriate Japanese prisoners of war in China. Discharged as a corporal in 1946, Yazhe came to Utah for work at a school in Brigham City where he met his wife Katie Trujillo. They raised seven children together.

Her father didn’t often attend Code Talker reunions, but he did go to Window Rock for a 2001 ceremony presenting Code Talkers with the Congressional Silver Medal, said Melissa Yazhe.

Using their native language the Navajo Code Talkers developed a secret code – the only one the Japanese were unable to break. The code is credited with saving thousands of lives and shortening the war.

There were at least 440 Code Talkers. Fewer than 18 are still alive.

 

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