fbpx
 
Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever Sr. passed away on Friday at age 96. (Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation)

WASHINGTON — Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr., who passed away five days before his 97th birthday in January, will have his place of honor in the Congressional Record. U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, submitted a speech honoring the life and service of Vendever to the Congressional Record, according to a press release distributed by the senator’s office.

Vandever, along with other Navajo Code Talkers, helped the United States military communicate across the Pacific using a code that the Japanese never managed to break. The Navajo Code Talkers participated in every major Marine operation in the Pacific theater and helped save the lives of their fellow Marines and give the military a strategic advantage throughout the war. The program remained classified until 1968, but the Navajo Code Talkers gained the recognition they had earned in 2001 with the Congressional Silver Medal.

“Joe epitomized the bravery and skill of the Navajo Code Talkers,” Udall said. “Joe’s Navajo name means ‘going places,’ and he certainly did during the war. Serving in the 6th Marine Division from 1943 to 1946, Joe was stationed on 16 battleships – serving from Samoa to Guadalcanal to Guam to Japan to China. Joe translated messages from Navajo to English, and set up communications posts on the front lines.

Vandever enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in Santa Fe, N.M. on March 26, 1943 and was honorably discharged as Corporal on Jan. 22, 1946. He served in northern Solomons, Bougainville, Emirau Islands, Guam, Marianas Islands, Okinawa, Ryukyus Islands, Occupation of Japan, and Occupation of China. In 2001, he received the Congressional Silver Medal for his service as a Navajo Code Talker in World War II.

Udall highlighted Vandever’s commitment to his language, culture and people. “Joe was fiercely proud of the Navajo language. According to Joe, ‘Our language is powerful,’ and ‘we [won] the war with our tongue.’ He wanted younger generations to learn the language and counseled them: ‘Don’t ever leave your language.’

“Joe was a loving family man. After the war, he came home and married Bessie, to whom he was married for 73 years, until she passed away on September 24, 2019. He and Bessie had 9 children, 36 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild. He inspired them and encouraged them to pursue higher education, and he was beloved by them all,” Udall said in his submitted speech.

“Joe lived a long life, and a good life – with kindness, optimism, good humor, integrity, and commitment and love for family and community,” Udall concluded. “His light will continue to shine bright in his children and his future generations. I am honored to pay tribute to Joe Vandever – who faithfully served our nation and his family and Tribe,” Udall continued.

More Stories Like This

PHOTOS: The White House Tribal Nations Summit
WATCH: The White House Tribal Nations Summit 
Tribal Leaders to Attend First In-person White House Tribal Nations Summit in Six Years
Tribal Business News Round Up: Nov. 28
Seven U.S. Senators Ask President to Release Leonard Peltier

You’re reading the first draft of history. 

November is  Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:

  • Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
  • Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.  
  • Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country.  We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.   

We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.

Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected]