Photo: Albert Whitman & Company

Each year on August 14, we honor the Navajo Code Talkers who were called into service in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Joseph Bruchac’s true story of these brave men begins with Chester Nez as a boy attending boarding school where he was repeatedly told “Navajo is bad! Speak only English!” Chester’s refusal to give up his native language and commitment to his culture gave him courage to serve his country, strength to face the horrors of war, and support when transitioning back home, not to mention the tools to create an unbreakable military code that helped the United States achieve victory. Throughout the story, the author reveals how Chester is both proud that he never gave up his language and proud to serve the country that told him that very language was worthless.

Extend Your Learning:

Ask questions about Chester’s story.

  • Who were the other Navajo Code Talkers?
  • Why did these men volunteer to serve in the Marines?
  • Would you have done the same thing in their situation?
  • What makes a good secret code?
  • Why has the U.S. Military used secret code throughout its history?
  • Can you think of any other secret codes?

Conduct research to learn more about Chester Nez and the other Navajo Code Talkers who helped the United States achieve victory in World War II.

Try making your own secret code and see if anyone can crack it.

Don’t know where to start? Create your own version of the alphabet! For example, make “A” a square, “B” a triangle, and so on until you have all 26 letters. From there, you can put together your images/shapes into different combinations to spell out words.

You can make codes out of more than just images. Try sounds or mixing up letters.

For inspiration making you own code, take a look in the back of the book to see more about the Navajo Code.

If you’re one of our central Ohio neighbors, check out the book at your local branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library where the book is widely available! Then come in to the NVMM and learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers or any of the other unique Veteran stories that can be found throughout American history. 

WEDS-SUN 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
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