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

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  • Code Talker David Patterson Sr died Sunday aged 94, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico
  • The Navajos used their native languageto  outsmart the Japanese in World War II
  • Patterson and hundreds of other Navajos trained in radio communications were prohibited from talking about their work until it was declassified in 1968 
  • After his military service, Patterson became a social worker with the Navajos 
  • Funeral services will be held on Thursday at a church in Shiprock, New Mexico 

By Kelly Mclaughlin For Mailonline and Associated Press

Published: 18:59 EDT, 9 October 2017 | Updated: 08:36 EDT, 11 October 2017

A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in New Mexico, aged 94, Navajo Nation officials said.

David Patterson Sr died Sunday in Rio Rancho from pneumonia and complications from subdural hematoma.

Patterson and hundreds of other Navajos trained in radio communications were prohibited from talking about their work until it was declassified in 1968. Few Navajo Code Talkers are still alive.

Although Patterson couldn't say much about his time using codes with the Marine Corps, one of his sons said he was proud of being a Code Talker.

Navajo Code Talker David Patterson Sr died Sunday, aged 84, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, from pneumonia and complications from subdural hematoma
Navajo Code Talker David Patterson Sr died Sunday, aged 84, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, from pneumonia and complications from subdural hematoma

Navajo Code Talker David Patterson Sr died Sunday, aged 84, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, from pneumonia and complications from subdural hematoma

Patterson and hundreds of other Navajos trained in radio communications were prohibited from talking about their work until it was declassified in 1968. 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. 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. Few Navajo Code Talkers are still alive

'He attended as many Code Talker events as he could,' his son, 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. 

During the war, they radioed messages using a code derived from their native Navajo tongue. 

They used words for red soil, war chief, braided hair and hummingbird, for example, to create the only unbroken code in modern military history.

He and other Navajos followed in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code and received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.  

'As one of the Navajo Code Talkers, my father and other Navajos coded and decoded classified military dispatches during WWII using a code derived from their native tongue,' Pat Patterson wrote on a GoFundMe page created for funeral costs. 

Although Patterson, pictured with the mayor of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Greg Hull, couldn't say much about his time using codes with the Marine Corps, one of his sons said he was proud of being a Code Talker
Although Patterson, pictured with the mayor of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Greg Hull, couldn't say much about his time using codes with the Marine Corps, one of his sons said he was proud of being a Code Talker

Although Patterson, pictured with the mayor of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Greg Hull, couldn't say much about his time using codes with the Marine Corps, one of his sons said he was proud of being a Code Talker

He added: 'The Code Talkers took part in every Marine assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, including the Marshall Islands, ROI & Namur Islands, the Kwajalein Atoll, Iwo Jima, and Saipan, and were key in the United States winning the war.'

After his military service, Patterson became a social worker with the tribe's Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987.

He raised his family in Oklahoma, California and Shiprock, New Mexico. He is survived by six children.

Pat Patterson told the Farmington Daily Times that his father moved to Rio Rancho in 2012 to live with his youngest son. 

He said his father was a devoted Catholic who loved bingo, baseball and bowling.

Navajo Nation's President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez mourned the loss of Patterson on Tuesday. 

After his military service, Patterson, Pictured second right with fellow Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay (second left) during a bull riding event, became a social worker with the tribe's Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987
After his military service, Patterson, Pictured second right with fellow Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay (second left) during a bull riding event, became a social worker with the tribe's Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987

After his military service, Patterson, Pictured second right with fellow Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay (second left) during a bull riding event, became a social worker with the tribe's Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987

'It's a sad day on the Navajo Nation when we lose a national treasure like we did in losing Navajo Nation Code Talker David Patterson, Sr.,' Begaye said. 'Beyond his service in protecting our freedom, he was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. 

'The Office of the President and Vice President extends our condolences to his family during this time of mourning.'

Nez also released a statement following Patterson's death, in which he saluted 'the service of our great warrior'. 

'Whenever the Nation loses an elder, we lose a perspective of history that provides insight into our own lives,' Nez said. 

He added: 'Our elders hold great wisdom and traditional perspectives. We need to continue to embrace intergenerational teaching and connections.' 

Funeral services will be held on Thursday at Christ the King Catholic Church in Shiprock, New Mexico. Burial will be at the Shiprock cemetery.

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Larry White
By Larry White 11/10/2017 08:36:00