Hundreds of Navajos assisted in bringing down the Japanese in World War II by helping to develop an intricate code based on their native language. Just nine of those Code Talkers survived into 2019—but now there are only eight. The Arizona Republic reports 94-year-old Alfred K. Newman has died in New Mexico; per the AP, Newman passed away Sunday at a Bloomfield nursing home. The Marine Corps veteran served with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific Islands from 1943 to 1945, with the Navajo Times reporting he decided to join the military after hearing about the Pearl Harbor attack.
Newman, originally from Whiskey Creek, has said that when he was growing up, Native Americans were barred from speaking their native language in school; he was once ordered to write "I must not speak Navajo" after being caught doing so. It was that language that the US military tapped into during the war, with Code Talkers coming up with ways of saying words or terms that didn't exist in their own language: The Republic cites an example of how a commander would call for two tanks to move forward by saying, in the Dine language, "two turtles needed." Newman is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Betsy, as well as five children, 13 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. (Another Code Talker just died in June, also at the age of 94.)