Before reading Code Talker by Chester Nez, I knew of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II, but I didn’t know much about them. I learned so much from this book!
First, I must say the book starts out with a war scene straight away. Lots of statistics, dates and numbers are thrown out and I thought if the entire book was going to be like this, I was in deep trouble. But it didn’t get very far before Chester flashes back to his childhood on the Checkerboard area just outside of the Navajo Nation. It was here that his story caught my attention and never let go.
Chester grew up in the 1920s (wow, a hundred years ago) tending his grandmother’s sheep and goats. He loved his family, the animals, the land. He paints a beautiful picture of his childhood – until he is sent to boarding school, where things are much harsher for him. I want to share his story, but that would take away the enjoyment of reading the book for yourself so I’ll let you discover the ups and downs of Chester’s pre-war and post-war life if you decide to read the book. I will say that I was saddened to hear his first hand story of some of the horrible things that happened to him and his family because of their heritage.
I also learned volumes about World War II. My birthday falls on D-Day, so I’ve made it a point to learn quite a bit about the war in Europe. But I knew very little about what happened in the South Pacific. The stories he shares are harrowing. And the Code Talkers were right in the thick of things to get important information to and from the front lines. They were all incredibly brave. Chester served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Just hearing him talk about the Marines made my heart swell with pride. My father was a career Marine, serving 20 years, some of that time in Vietnam. To this day when I see a young person in a Marine uniform my eyes well up with tears. So there’s just one more reason why I loved Chester’s story.
The Code Talkers weren’t permitted to share any details about what they did until the late 1960s. They were forced to spend more than 20 years keeping their accomplishment to themselves. During that time, they received no recognition for what they did. They weren’t able to put the skills they used on a resume. Can you imagine? Many of the original Code Talkers died before they were ever able to tell anyone. That makes my heart ache. But once their work became declassified, the remaining Code Talkers began receiving the recognition they deserved. In fact, I didn’t realize there was a memorial dedicated to them in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I would love to visit and see it in person.
The story and the history shared in the book are amazing. The writing is less than amazing – for example the flat statistics that opened the book and almost killed my enthusiasm to read it. I don’t blame Chester Nez for this. Chester’s story was penned by Judith Schiess Avila. It could have been better written, so it’s not a perfect five star read. I’m still giving it 4 stars. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to hear more about Chester’s life. I could have listened for days to his stories about his childhood, his friends in the war, and his years after the war.