Last of the original Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez — died at age 93

This article appeared in the military newspaper, STARS AND STRIPES, last November. Honoring Chester Nez.

The 29 U.S. Marines dodged bullets at the front — first in the Pacific and then in Germany — passing top-secret messages to each other in a code that the enemy couldn’t crack.

The warriors, Navajo Code Talkers, relied on their their native language to develop the code, which helped to turn the course of World War II in the favor of the Allies. Of the original group, only one is still alive: Chester Nez.

On Nov. 9, the American Veterans Center honored Nez and six other veterans for bravery and valor above and beyond the call of duty during combat. Nez received the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service in the military during World War II.

“I was very proud to say that the Japanese did everything in their power to break that code but they never did,” Nez said in an interview with Stars and Stripes the day before the award ceremony.

If the Code Talkers had been caught, he said, they would be tortured and their tongues cut out. They risked everything for the United States, even though they were raised in military boarding schools that prohibited them from speaking their native language…

Their language, however, would serve the United States well later, in 1942, when Americans were dying in rising numbers overseas, especially in the Pacific. The Japanese seemed to know what the U.S. military was planning well before it took place.

That’s where the Code Talkers came in, recruited from boarding schools to join the Marines and use their unique skills to develop an unbreakable code to pass messages…

World War I veteran Philip Johnston, who came up with the idea to develop the Navajo Code in 1941, came to Nez’ boarding school to recruit. The volunteers went directly into basic training without any goodbyes. Nez left behind his sister Dora, his father and his beloved grandmother, who wouldn’t know he was fighting until two years after he left…

After the war, the Navajo men received no fanfare, and many struggled, said Judith Avila, who co-wrote Nez’s memoir “Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Talkers of WWII” and helped Nez during the Nov. 8 interview.

Instead of people thanking them for their service, they faced discrimination and insults, she said. When Nez wore his Marine Corps uniform to register for his Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood — required for all Native Americans — the clerk told Nez he wasn’t a real citizen…

Without support, suffering from what most now know to be post-traumatic stress, many Code Talkers turned to alcohol and lived on the streets. There were about 420 Code Talkers that followed the original 29 into service. Of that group, about 30 are still alive.

Nez said he was one of the lucky ones. When he returned, he was embraced by his family. He got a job at the VA, which he kept until the 1970s.

Nez still has good memories of his time with the Marines, whom he said treated the Code Talkers very well. Latham Nez, who accompanied his grandfather to the awards, said the Marines saw the Navajo men as “damn good Marines” who were already warriors when they left for basic training.

I met a few Code Talkers when I lived in the Navajo Nation. It was an honor.

The contrast between the reception back home for white soldiers compared to Black, Hispanic and Native American veterans is well known, nowadays. But, decades of indifference and bigotry have been exceedingly slow to disappear from even acceptable behavior in polite society.

Jake Schoellkkopf/Los Angeles Times

Chester Nez was a brave and courageous American. He died, yesterday, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Thanks, Mike

HypeWatch asks: Does Wi-Fi really disturb fetal brains?

Even without much evidence to support concerns that prenatal exposure to wireless radiation leads to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, the BabySafe Project is still promoting a “better safe than sorry” campaign to pregnant women.

Perhaps setting an iPad streaming television atop the baby bump does carry some level of some type of fetal health risk. Who knows? If so, what could possibly be wrong with a simple recommendation to tell pregnant moms to put a little distance between the device and the belly?

But a scare campaign targeting pregnant women, who already face a barrage of no-nos the second they learn they’re with child, also has its risks.

Without definitive science to back it up, words and phrases like “damage,” “behavioral disorders,” “may lead to long-term health consequences,” are pretty hefty terms to be throwing around…

Based on research from two Turkish universities, Devra Davis now believes irregular, erratic signals from wireless radiation interfere with the rapid neurological growth unique to prenatal cellular development.

Hugh Taylor, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale-New Haven Hospital, presented his evidence of the effects of cell phone radiation on 33 pregnant mice, published in Scientific Reports in 2012.

Taylor’s study showed that prenatal exposure to cell phones — kept on continuous active calls for the entire gestational period, up to 17 days — had a dose-response relationship with decreased memory and increased hyperactivity in exposed mice compared with unexposed controls (n=42).

That’s right, she considers cellphones as dangerous or more than devices using wi-fi. Taylor’s study had cellphone exposure full-bore 24/7 – unlikely behavior if voluntary.

Taylor suggested that the animal study eliminated possible confounders, such as mothers simply ignoring their children as they talk on their cell phone, as causation for behavioral problems rather than the wireless radiation.

But none of the references the BabySafe project gives are quite solid enough for a definitive clinical recommendation. Of the 20 scientific references presented by BabySafe, the majority were animal trials, and only one, a Danish study, involved humans. Their recollections of “using their cellphone a lot while pregnant”…

There is no doubt further research is warranted based on preliminary rodent studies that suggest potential harms. But likening cell phone use to asbestos and tobacco might be taking it a bit far for now.

There’s a reason this regular report is called HypeWatch. Whether the source of social and political activity advocated comes from within or without a legitimate medical community it generally concerns clinically unproven advice – disseminated as a special danger — so, we needn’t wait for proof!

Japanese clothing company labels sizes as SKINNY, FAT and JUMBO

In an industry plagued with things like vanity sizing, it’s often good to remember that as long as something feels and looks good, the actual size of the clothing really doesn’t mean much.

But we have a feeling that this sentiment might not make shoppers of this store feel any better. Complex reported on Monday on Japanese company Fatyo’s size offerings, which are pretty much unlike any we’ve ever seen before.

Instead of using a typical small, medium and large scale, or even a number system, this brand offers four, more… descriptive options: Twitch, Skinny, Fat and Jumbo.

And even though most have concentrated on the fact that they have a “fat” size, it’s important to acknowledge that “twitch” isn’t exactly the most complimentary label, either.

Sounds like the kind of marketing that might be a hit in two neighborhoods in downtown Tokyo – for six weeks. Then, gone forever.