Indian Country Mourns Death of Navajo Code Talker Wilfred Billey

Navajo Code Talker Wilfred Billey became an educator

Navajo Code Talker Wilfred Billey became an educator

FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO — The Navajo Nation and others throughout Indian country are mourning the death of Navajo Code Talker Wilfred Billey, who walked on at his home in Farmington, New Mexico on Thursday, December 12, 2013. He was 90.

While Billey was still attending a Methodist high school, the U.S. Marine Corps sent recruiters to the school so they could get a “few good men” to join. He and several of his classmates volunteered to enlist.

The Marine Corps were specifically looking to identify young men who were proficient in both the English and Navajo languages so they could transmit in combat activity in code.

Billey joined the Marines in 1943 and became a communications radioman, as the Code Talkers were known then, in the all-Navajo 297th Platoon in the 2nd Division. He became a corporal in the Marine Corp and fought in the Pacific Theater in battles at Okinawa, Tinian, Tarawa and Saipan. He received an honorable discharge in 1946.

After World War II, he furthered his education by receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He became an educator, which included being a counselor and eventually a principal.

Billey was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001.

During the time the Code Talkers were being considered to receive Congressional medals, Billey worked with New Mexico’s congressional delegation to come up with the words appearing along the bottom of the medals: “Dine Bizaad Yee Atah Naayee’ Yik’eh Deesdlii” or “The Navajo language was used to defeat the enemy,” his family told the Associated Press.

Funeral services will take place on December 21 at the First United Methodist Church in Farmington, New Mexico. He is survived by his wife, Matilda, and six children: Barbara Billey, Willard Billey, Linda Kerr, Elsie Billey, Chuck Billey and Warren Billey.



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