The last surviving member of the original Navajo Code Talkers will be featured in a documentary to be shown in classrooms across the country in order to educate students about the impact those Marines had in defeating the Japanese during World War II.
Chester Nez was one of 29 Marines who initially created a special code the Japanese couldn’t crack during the second world war. Now he’s sharing his story with David DeJonge, a filmmaker and founder of Survivor Quest, a nonprofit that specializes in educational documentaries. Nez will be one of several Marines featured in the new 25-minute film.
DeJonge began filming the Code Talkers’ story after traveling to to Gallup, N.M. He was there to premier another film at a local hotel about the life of Frank Buckles, the last of the World War I veterans. Nez went to see the film and was introduced to DeJonge by Ken Riege, the hotel manager.
Riege said DeJonge decided almost immediately that he wanted to make a film about the Code Talkers.
“In this area, their story has been very well written about, but there aren’t a lot of documentary films about them,” Riege said.
Riege has stayed involved in DeJonge’s project, working to get the word out locally. He put the filmmaker in touch with several more Code Talkers who regularly attend functions at his hotel.
Their story is well-known across New Mexico, Riege said, but they’re excited to share it with a greater audience who might not know anything about their accomplishments.
“They’re extremely respected here, and I think it’s one of the primary reasons enlistment in this area — and particularly in the Marine Corps — is so high,” Riege said. “People want to follow in their amazing footsteps.”
DeJonge hopes to have the Code Talkers’ documentary shown in classrooms nationwide, as well as aired on PBS or the Military Channel, Riege said.