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Navajo Code Talker Dies Joe Vandever Dies At 96

Joe Vandever
Navajo Nation Office of the President
Joe Vandever was one of the few remaining Navajo Code Talkers.

One of the last remaining  Navajo Code Talkershas died. Joe Vandever died Friday. He was 96. 

Joe Vandever enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in Santa Fe in 1943. He served as a Code Talker during World War II in Guam, Okinawa, and the occupations of both Japan and China. 

The Navajo developed an unbreakable code that saved countless lives. The Marines told them to keep it a secret in case they needed it again. The military finally declassified the code in 1968. It wasn’t until 2008 that the men received Congressional gold and silver medals. 

Joe and his wife, Bessie, had been married 73 years before she died in September. They had nine children, 39 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. 

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.