One of the last Navajo code talkers dies at 94

Junie Sihlangu
Jun 15, 2018
06:22 A.M.

Samuel Tom Holiday, a Navajo Code Talker from World War II has died. He passed away on Monday after celebrating his 94th birthday a few days ago.


Holiday was part of a US Marine Corps special unit that used the Navajo language to communicate secret messages about troops, tactics and other orders. According to CNN, he is to be buried next to his wife.

In 1943, Samuel Tom Holiday joined the Corps at the age of 19. He then served in World War II until 1945 where he became part of a special unit.

His team used the Navajo language to communicate secret messages and other tactical matters that were indecipherable to the enemy. Having the code talkers was a key factor in the American military victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and several other major battles in the Pacific theater.


After the war, Holiday returned to the Navajo Reservation. President Ronald Reagan awarded him and the other code talkers with a Certificate of Recognition in 1982. August 14 was also declared the ‘Navajo Code Talkers Day.’

Holiday later became a well-known face in the St. George area. According to The Spectrum, Holiday wrote a book about his experiences, attended veteran’s events, spoke to children, and taught others about the role code talkers played in the war.

The special of Navajo code talkers started with a group of 29 recruits. By the end of the war, there were more than 400 members.


One of the last initial 29 code talkers, Chester Nez, died in 2014 at age 93. Navajo leaders believe that there are fewer than 10 code talkers still alive.

However, due to the program being classified for so many years after the war, an exact number is unknown. Using a Native American language as a code during wars was not new.

The US military had used the Choctaw language during World War I as part of its secret code. However, Germany and Japan worked to learn Choctaw and other Native American languages during the interwar period according to the CIA.


The Navajo language's syntax and linguistics were particularly tricky for non-Navajo, and it is not written. That’s why the Marines began recruiting and training them in 1942.

Holiday will be buried next to his wife at the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona. For more on this story go to our Twitter account @amomama_usa.

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