[Marxism] Chester Nez Dies at 93; Navajo Words Once Washed From His Mouth Helped Win War

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 6 06:59:20 MDT 2014

NY Times, June 7 2014
Chester Nez Dies at 93; Navajo Words Once Washed From His Mouth Helped 
Win War

To the end of his life, Chester Nez recalled the first message he sent 
over the radio while serving at Guadalcanal: “Enemy machine gun nest on 
your right. Destroy.”

Receiving the message, American forces eliminated the threat.

Mr. Nez, a former United States Marine who died on Wednesday at 93, had 
sent the message not in English but rather in a code he had helped 
create. It originally went much like this: “Anaai (Enemy) naatsosi 
(Japanese) beeldooh alhaa dildoni (machine gun) nishnaajigo nahdikadgo 
(on your right flank). Diiltaah (Destroy).”

The code was fashioned from Navajo, the language that Mr. Nez grew up 
speaking, was later barred from speaking and still later helped craft 
into a military code so impervious that it helped the United States 
secure victory in the Pacific in the summer of 1945.


Chester Nez was born on Jan. 23, 1921, in Chichiltah, N.M., known in 
English as Two Wells, and reared on the Navajo reservation nearby. His 
mother died when he was very young.

His Navajo given name has been lost to time; his surname, pronounced 
“nezz,” means “very tall” in the language.

The Nez family had been fairly prosperous, and Chester grew up herding 
its large flock of sheep. But in the 1930s, responding to what it deemed 
overgrazing in the region, the federal government slaughtered tens of 
thousands of Navajo sheep, including the Nez family’s. They were reduced 
to subsistence farming.

At 8, Chester entered the first of a series of Bureau of Indian Affairs 
boarding schools that he would attend in New Mexico and Arizona. 
Assimilation into white society was the goal of such schools, and he was 
assigned the name Chester, after President Chester A. Arthur.

Students were forbidden to speak Navajo. The penalty for doing so, Mr. 
Nez recalled, was a beating, or having one’s mouth washed out with “a 
bitter, brown soap.”


Mr. Nez returned home from the war to less than ideal conditions. He was 
unable to vote: New Mexico did not grant suffrage to American Indians 
until 1948.

When, in uniform, he went to the Federal Building in Gallup, N.M., to 
register for the identity card that Indians were then required to carry, 
a white civil servant told him, “You’re not a full citizen of the United 
States, you know.”

Prohibited, like all the men of the 382nd, from discussing his service, 
Mr. Nez was plagued by nightmares and spent more than five months in a 
San Francisco military hospital.

“My condition was so severe I went psycho,” he said in a 2005 lecture. 
“I lost my mind.”

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