/ Modified may 14, 2019 11:03 a.m.

One of Few Remaining Navajo Code Talkers Dies

Fleming Begaye Sr. died Friday in Chinle at the age of 97.

window rock navajo code talker hero Navajo Code Talker Memorial at Window Rock, Arizona.
Ron Cogswell/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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FLAGSTAFF — One of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers has died. Fleming Begaye Sr. died Friday in Chinle. He was 97.

Fleming Begaye Sr. was one of more than 400 Navajos who served as Code Talkers during World War II. The men communicated during battles using some 600 Navajo words.

Former Navajo Code Talker Peter MacDonald said if it weren't for the Navajo Code, the United States Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.

"It saved hundreds of thousands of lives and helped win the war in the Pacific," MacDonald said. "The only military code in modern history never broken."

MacDonald's friend Begaye fought in several battles, including Saipan, where he was badly wounded. He spent a year in a naval hospital in California recovering.

The code was declassified in 1968. But it wasn't until 2000 that Washington honored the men with congressional gold and silver medals. Seven code talkers remain.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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