WWII Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval Dies at 98 — 3 Remain from Group

Private First Class Samuel Sandoval, a Native American Navajo Indian serving with the United States Marines, relaxes under a torii gate in a former park in Okinawa, 1945. (Photo by USMC/Interim Archives/Getty Images)
USMC/Interim Archives/Getty Images

Samuel Sandoval, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers from World War II, died at the age of 98.

Sandoval, born in 1922 in Nageezi, New Mexico, passed away late Friday at a hospital in Shiprock, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The hundreds of Navajo Code Talkers of the U.S. Marine Corps were instrumental in winning the Pacific Theater, as they were used in major Marine assaults against the Japanese in World War II.

The Code Talkers would communicate messages using the unwritten Navajo language on enemy military movement, confusing the Japanese attempting 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 talker 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 military in 1946.

Following the conclusion of the war, the Navajo Code Talkers were forbidden from talking about their operation until it was declassified in 1968, CNN noted.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 as the Navajo Code Talkers day. Twenty years later, the code talkers were honored with 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 person who sacrificed more than we will ever know to defend our homelands using our sacred Navajo language,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan New said 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 further read. “On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his wife, Malula Sandoval, his children, and many loved ones.”

There are only three code talkers left remaining today, including Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr., and Thomas H. Begay.

Sandoval’s death comes after two other notable World War II veterans recently passed away.

The last recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II, Herschel “Woody Williams,” died in late June at the age of 98 in West Virginia.

In July, the last remaining member of Easy Company, more commonly known as the Band of Brothers, in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II, Bradford Freeman, passed away in Mississippi at the age of 97.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.

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