Joe Vandever Sr. dies at 96
Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever Sr., one of more than 400 Navajo Code Talkers who developed a secret military code during World War II, died Friday.
He was 96.
Vandever's daughter Sheila Nez, 54, said her father passed away in Haystack, New Mexico. "He had health issues and it just took his life," she said. "He lost my mom, who he had lived with for 73 years, on Sept. 24, 2019. I think that's probably part of it, too." Nez said that her mother, Bessie D. Vandever, was always there for her dad and often helped him bounce back whenever he went into the hospital.
Vandever will be buried next to his wife in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Vandever, from Haystack, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946 as a Navajo Code Talker. Vandever was drafted at age 19, and he was honorably discharged in January 1946.
Vandever served in the Pacific theater. He was a part of the 6th Marine Division during his service in Okinawa, Japan, and China. He was in the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion in Bougainville, and then the 4th Marines Regiment Brigade while in Guam. “The Navajo people have lost another great warrior who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know to defend our country. On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his children, and many other loved ones,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
Vandever was sent overseas in October 1943 and joined the 6th Marine Division, 3rd Raider Battalion. He traveled on 16 battleships and was stationed in New Caledonia, the Somoan Islands, Bougainville, Guadacanal, Emirau Island, Guam, Okinawa, Japan and China.
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