Regional
4:02 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Navajo Code Talker Dies

A Navajo man who aspired to be a pilot but was recruited to become a Code Talker during World War II has died.

Michael Smith says his father, Samuel "Jesse" Smith, died Monday night in Albuquerque after recent bouts with pneumonia. He was 88.

The elder Smith enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps to become a pilot, but his plan was derailed because he didn't have a high school diploma. Instead, he became one of hundreds of Navajos who used a code based on their native language to confound the Japanese and help win the war.

His work following the war included law enforcement and directing the Navajo Nation's transportation and water resources offices.

Smith and his wife, who is from Acoma Pueblo, had nine children.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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