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Navajo Code Talker William Tully Brown Dies at Age 96

Navajo Nation

One of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers has died. William Tully Brown passed away Monday at the age of 96, leaving only five living Navajo Code Talkers. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Brown was born in Black Mountain, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1944. He served at the battles of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal, and received several commendations including the American Campaign and World War Two Victory medals. He was honorably discharged two years later.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez offered his condolences to Brown’s family, saying the tribe "has lost another great Diné warrior."

The Code Talkers used their native language to create an unbreakable code that stumped the Japanese and helped turn the tide in the Pacific during World War II.

Brown is the third Navajo Code Talker to die in the past month following New Mexico State Sen. Jonn Pinto.

Funeral services for Brown will be held Thursday in Fort Defiance on the Navajo Nation.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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