The U.S. military, ferrying troops to battle sites across the Pacific during World War II, urgently needed an undecipherable code to transmit classified information. It had attempted to use various languages and dialects as code, but each was quickly cracked by cryptographers in Tokyo.
Someone suggested the complex Navajo language, and soon Marine Corps recruiters showed up at a boarding school on a reservation in Arizona. Among those who heard the recruiters' pitch was Chester Nez, who said to a friend, "Let's go see what's behind that mesa" — the world beyond the reservation.
Today, Nez is the only surviving member of the original group of 29 Navajo Code Talkers. He proudly talks about what he and the others did during the war — a story that was kept secret for more than two decades.
"J'o ako téé'go nise báá," he says: "That's my journey to war and back."