Samuel Sandoval, one of the last WWII Navajo Code Talkers, has died aged 98.
Sandoval, born in 1922 in Nageezi, New Mexico, died Friday night at a hospital in Shiprock, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The United States Marine Corps’ hundreds of Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in the Pacific Theater’s victory, as they were used in major Navy assaults against the Japanese during World War II.
The Code Talkers would communicate messages using the unwritten Navajo language about enemy military movements, confusing the Japanese who attempted to crack their code.
Sandoval, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943, was serving in the Battle of Okinawa when he received a message in Navajo from another code-speaker that the Japanese had surrendered, leading him to relay the message up the chain of command, the AP noted. . He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946.
After the war ended, Navajo Code Talkers were prohibited from talking about their operation until it was declassified in 1968, CNN noted.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 Navajo Code Talkers Day. Twenty years later, code talkers have been awarded congressional gold and silver medals, including Sandoval, who received a silver medal, according to the Arizona Republic.
“Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval will always be remembered as a loving and courageous individual who sacrificed more than we will ever know to defend our homeland using our sacred Navajo language,” said Navajo Nation Chairman, Jonathan New, in a statement, per CNN.
“We are saddened by his passing, but his legacy will always live on in our hearts and minds,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and deepest condolences to his wife, Malula Sandoval, his children and many loved ones.
The life of Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval commemorated and honored by the Navajo people pic.twitter.com/f1eQD8KaPK
— Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (@NNPrezNez) July 31, 2022
There are only three code talkers left today, including Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr. and Thomas H. Begay.
Sandoval’s death comes after the recent deaths of two other notable World War II veterans.
The last World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Herschel “Woody Williams”, died in late June at the age of 98 in West Virginia.
In July, the last remaining member of Easy Company, better known as the Band of Brothers, of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, Bradford Freeman, died in Mississippi at the age of 97.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.