Navajo Code Talker remembered as great warrior, family man
The Associated Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — One of the few remaining Navajo Code Talkers who used his language to confound the Japanese in World War II has died.
Joe Vandever Sr. died of health complications Friday in Haystack, New Mexico, west of Grants, according to his family. He was 96.
Tribal leaders called Vandever a "great warrior" and a "compassionate family man," and asked Navajos to keep his spirit and his family in their prayers.
Vandever was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, transmitting messages using a code based on the Navajo language. The code developed by an original group of 29 Navajos was never broken.
Vandever enlisted in the Marines in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in March 1943 and was honorably discharged in January 1946. He worked multiple jobs after the war, including for an oil company and as a mining prospector, and stressed the importance of the Navajo language. He also was a medicine man.
Vandever is survived by a sister, several children, and dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. He had one great-great grandchild.
Vandever's wife of 73 years, Bessie, died last September.
He will be buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Arrangements are pending.
Vandever's death leaves less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers still alive.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer offer their heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr., who passed away on Friday morning at the age of 96 in Haystack, New Mexico.
“The Navajo people have lost another great warrior who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know to defend our country. On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his children, and many other loved ones,” said President Nez.