Samuel Sandoval, Navajo Code Talker -The Heart of a Warrior, Dead at 98

Faye Higbee
samuel sandoval

Samuel Sandoval was one of the last living Navajo Code Talkers – there are only 3 of his group left. As he passed into eternity on Friday in Shiprock, NM, his legacy and that of the Navajo Code Talkers will live on, partly thanks to his wife Malula’s efforts to collect information for a documentary and book named “Naz Bah Ei Bijei: Heart of a Warrior.” Only three of the original Navajo Code Talkers remain: Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr. and Thomas H. Begay.

“Sam always said, ‘I wanted my Navajo youngsters to learn, they need to know what we did and how this code was used and how it contributed to the world. ‘That the Navajo language was powerful and always to continue carrying our legacy.'”

Malula Sandoval

Samuel Sandoval enlisted in the Marine Corps after Pearl Harbor to fight for two nations: the Navajo Nation and the United States. An original group of 29 Navajo Marines came up with the alphabet that was unbreakable Hundreds of Navajo men were eventually recruited to use their native tongue as code. The Code Talkers are credited with helping the United States win the war in the Pacific.

“Many have tried throughout the world to break that code, Sandoval said. “No one can. Well, you’re looking at one.”

Sandoval was a Code Talker during five combat tours in the South Pacific, including the islands of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Peleliu, Guam and Okinawa.

The first group of Code Talkers arrived at Guadalcanal on Sept. 18.

Each Code Talker was to be constantly accompanied by a bodyguard. Sandoval told a story of a fellow soldier who was always around him and carried a pistol, a weapon issued only to those of higher rank.

“I finally asked why he had a pistol and why he was always around me, and my sergeant said, ‘Sam, if you get captured, that pistol is for you.’”

The service that the Navajos provided was so valuable to the United States in World War II that captured Code Talkers were to be killed in order to keep the code from the enemy. He also recalled perhaps the biggest message of all, which he received on Aug. 14, 1945. “I took a message from another Code Talker,” Sandoval said. “He said, ‘The Japanese Imperial Forces have surrendered.’”

The Durango Herald interview with Samuel Sandoval in 2017
Screenshot of Samuel’s Congressional Medal

So many people showed up at the screening of the movie about his life and the book that many had to be turned away. We have written about several navajo heroes over the years, just not enough of them. Samuel Sandoval was a Marine with courage and kindness, according to those who knew him. His service during WWII was a great source of pride in his life. Rest in Peace, Samuel Sandoval.

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Featured screenshot via Fox10 Phoenix

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