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Member of secret WWII Navajo Code Talker Marine unit dies at 90

A member of the famed Navajo Code Talkers, who used their rare and ancient language to outwit the Japanese during World War II, has died.

George Smith died on Oct. 30 at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in New Mexico, said Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly. Smith was 90.

"Our Navajo Code Talkers have been real life heroes to generations of Navajo people," Shelly said in a statement. "They have brought pride to our Navajo people in so many ways."

In honor of Smith, the Navajo Nation flag will be flown at half-staff until sundown on Nov. 4.

Smith was part of a Marine unit of Native Americans who created a complex and secret code based on the Navajo language. Because Navajo is an unwritten language that was passed through generations, it is difficult for a non-Navajo speaker to translate, according to navajocodetalkers.org.

The words of the code, which were committed to memory by the Code Talkers, were used in communications in key battles, such as Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, the official site of the Code Talkers notes.

The Japanese never managed to crack the code.

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