One of the last remaining World War II-era Navajo code talkers, William Tully Brown, has died at the age of 96. William Tully Brown served in the Marine Corps and used the code to help transmit top secret messages during the war.
Navajo Nation President, Jonathan Nez, announced Brown’s death on June 3rd which occurred in Winslow, Arizona. The cause of death wasn’t disclosed.
According to CNN, William Tully Brown is the third Navajo Code Talker to pass away since May 10.
Brown was one of 400 Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II.
The Navajo code is the only spoken military code “never to have been deciphered”. The undecipherable messages were a key factor in securing U.S. military victories at Iwo Jima and several other battles in the Pacific theater.
“During the battle for Iwo Jima, Navajo Code Talkers in the Marines successfully transmitted more than 800 messages, which proved critical to America’s victory,” CNN states.
It was also used during the Korean War and ended during the Vietnam war.
“From 1942 until 1945, Navajo code was used by the US Marines and Navy, and they tell us that we saved hundreds of thousands of lives and helped win the war in the Pacific to preserve our freedom and liberty.” said Peter McDonald, president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association told CNN.
William Tully Brown enlisted with the Marine Corps in 1944 and was honorably discharged in 1946.
He was the recipient of the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Button.
His granddaughter, Delilah Yazzie, revealed that he would only talk about his war experiences when asked about it. Speaking to the Farmington Daily Times, Delilah said, “He was a very humble person. He didn’t like being in the limelight, he was reserved. He was a jokester and he liked to make people laugh,”
Watch the video below to find out more about this clever war tactic from fellow Navajo code talker Roy Hawthorne.