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Navajo Code Talker William Tully Brown dies at 96 – only five remain

Navajo Code Talkers and their Contribution in World War II (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
June 06, 2019

On Monday, one of the last living Navajo Code Talkers passed away, leaving just five left.

William Tully Brown, 96, passed away, the third Navajo Code Talker to die since May 10, according to a Navajo Nation press release on Monday.

Brown’s funeral will be held today at Fort Defiance Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fort Defiance, Ariz.

“We will always honor and remember the sacrifices he made at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima in the protection of freedom and liberty. Mr. Brown’s contributions to the Tselani/Cottonwood community and the Navajo Nation will always be cherished,” Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon said in the release.

Brown was born in Black Mountain, Ariz. on Oct. 30, 1922. He joined the Marine Corps in 1944 and was honorably discharged in 1946.  He was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Honorable Service Label Button.

“We know that he was a great person and a hero of World War II. He enjoyed a long life with his family and relatives. From my family, we express our condolences to the family of code talker Brown,” Peter MacDonald, president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association said, as AZ Central reported.

Navajo Code Talkers were a large group of Navajos that created a coded language for transmitting secret messages during World War II, which was vital to preserving the confidentiality of combat operations and strategies.

“From 1942 until 1945, Navajo code was used by the US Marines and Navy, and they tell us that we saved hundreds of thousands of lives and helped win the war in the Pacific to preserve our freedom and liberty,” MacDonald said.

The Navajo Code Talkers consisted of a group of Marines that used a much faster and secretive code that used some 411 vocabulary terms to outfox the Japanese in World War II. The code was so efficient that the group was called to serve in every major Marine operation in the Pacific theater.

The Navajo Code Talkers played a huge role in the U.S. victory at Iwo Jima as they successfully transmitted more than 800 messages.

Philip Johnston, who lived on a Navajo reservation growing up, came up with the concept of developing the code. The efforts for the secret coding was grossly understated until 1982 when President Ronald Reagan issued a Certificate of Recognition to the Code Talkers, and named August 14 “Navajo Code Talkers Day,” CNN reported.

Following the efforts by Reagan, President Bill Clinton approved a bill to award the original 29 code talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal, which were presented to the group by President George W. Bush in 2001.