Navajo Code Talker Teddy Draper Sr. Dies in Arizona at Age 96

Navajo Code Talker Teddy Draper Sr., right, stands with fellow code talker Keith Little in Gallup, N.M. on Oct. 28, 2006.(AP Photo/Donovan Quintero)
Navajo Code Talker Teddy Draper Sr., right, stands with fellow code talker Keith Little in Gallup, N.M. on Oct. 28, 2006.(AP Photo/Donovan Quintero)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in Arizona.

Navajo Nation officials say Teddy Draper Sr. died Thursday at age 96 in the small city of Prescott. Tribal officials said Draper lived in Chinle, Arizona.

Draper was part of the 5th Marine Division and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, which began on Feb. 19, 1945. He received a Purple Heart Medal, as well as a Congressional Silver Medal. He and other Navajos followed in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code. 

The Navajo code talkers were commended for their skill, speed, and accuracy demonstrated throughout the war. At the Battle of Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, had six Navajo code talkers working around the clock during the first two days of the battle. These six sent and received more than 800 messages -- all without error.

Connor later stated, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."

Funeral plans were pending and a list of Draper's survivors wasn't immediately available Thursday. Draper's death came nine days after another Navajo Code Talker, George B. Willie Sr., died in Arizona at age 92.

This Navajo Code Talkers Day, listen to Pfc. Joe Hosteen Kellwood sing the Marines’ Hymn in Navajo.

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