Navajo Code Talker George Smith Dies At Age 90

George Smith, one of the famed Navajo code talkers who served the American military in World War II, has died. Host Michel Martin offers a tribute to his life and work.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


And, unfortunately, we have some sad news to share here. George Smith, one of the famed Navajo Code Talkers, died on Tuesday at the age of 90. Smith enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and joined the elite unit of Code Talkers. He served in the Pacific theatre, eventually achieving the rank of corporal. The Code Talkers became military legends after the U.S. military began using the Navajo language to transmit tactical information during World War II. The code, which was never broken, is credited with helping the U.S. win the war.

Some 400 Navajo Americans served as Code Talkers and just a few survive today. The program remained secret for many years, however, so Code Talkers and those who knew about them could not talk about their crucial role in the war until 1968.

The Code Talkers were honored at the Capitol in Washington by President George W. Bush in July of 2001. At the ceremony, President Bush quoted Smith's brother Albert, who was also a Code Talker.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Late in his life, Albert Smith explained the code words for America was Our Mother. Our Mother stood for freedom, our religion, our ways of life and that's why we went in.

MARTIN: Navajo Code Talker George Smith died this week in New Mexico. His survivors include his brother and fellow Code Talker Albert, 20 grandchildren and more than 31 great-grandchildren. He was 90 years old.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.