Tribe says Navajo Code Talker has died in New Mexico at 94

U.S. Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker Tribute in midtown Phoenix created by Doug Hyde in 2011.

Chris English, Creative Commons

U.S. Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker Tribute in midtown Phoenix created by Doug Hyde in 2011.

WINDOW ROCK (AP) – A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in New Mexico, Navajo Nation officials said.

David Patterson Sr. died Sunday in Rio Rancho at age 94 from pneumonia and complications from subdural hematoma. Few Navajo Code Talkers are still alive.

Patterson and hundreds of other Navajos trained in radio communications were prohibited from talking about their work until it was declassified in 1968. Although Patterson couldn't say much, one of his sons said he was proud of being a Code Talker.

"He attended as many Code Talker events as he could," Pat Patterson said. "It was only when his health started to decline that he didn't attend as many."

Patterson served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945. He and other Navajos followed in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code and received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001. During the war, they radioed messages using Navajo words for red soil, war chief, braided hair and hummingbird, for example.