Today, only three Navajo Code Talkers remain from the original 400 USMC Navajo Code Talkers: Peter MacDonald Sr., Thomas H. Begay, and John Kinsel. (see the full list of 400 below)


Born in a remote area south of Gallup, New Mexico, Thomas Begay enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was 16 years old. Begay was one of 33 Navajo Code Talkers assigned to the renowned 5th Marine Division Signal Company and in the Radio Section of the H&S Company, 27th Marines. Along with his fellow Code Talkers, Begay played an essential role in the Battle of Iwo Jima, sending and receiving more than 800 messages without error. Following World War II, Begay served in the US Army during the Korean War as a parachutist and gliderman and in combat with the 7th Infantry Division in North Korea. After his discharge from the Army in 1953, Begay began a career in the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs overseeing Navajo Nation tribal trust programs for more than three decades. Begay has received numerous distinctions for his leadership, service, and civic engagement.


Born in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, Peter MacDonald enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 15. After training alongside other Code Talkers at Camp Pendleton, he was assigned to the 6th Marine Division and served in the South Pacific and North China. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Corporal and returned home to graduate high school before pursuing his dream of obtaining a college education. This led to a highly successful career in engineering and business as well as numerous prominent distinctions for his professional and civic work. Among these, MacDonald served as the Chairman of the Navajo Nation and was re-elected to the office four times—unprecedented in Navajo history. He continues to lecture across the country and serves as the chairman of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum.


Samuel Sandoval (1922-2022)

With a heavy heart, we share the news of the passing of one of our precious Navajo Code Talkers on July 29th. 

Born in Nageezi, New Mexico, Samuel Sandoval enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was 21, along with his brother who also became a Code Talker. Having attended a Methodist school for much of his life, he had been discouraged from speaking his native Navajo language; however, the language soon became critical to the Allied war effort. Sandoval served in the South Pacific, seeing combat in the campaigns on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Peleliu, and Okinawa. Receiving a message from another Code Talker that the Japanese forces surrendered on August 14, 1945, was the most memorable moment of his service. Sandoval’s life story and role as a Code Talker are portrayed in the 2012 documentary Naz Bah Ei Bijei: The Heart of a Warrior. (image from WWII Museum, American Spirit Awards 2022)



Born on a Navajo reservation near Lukachukai, Arizona, John Kinsel Sr. joined the Marine Corps at 21. He was assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division and saw combat in Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima, where he was wounded. Following the war, he returned home to his community and worked as an instructional aide at a school. A tough and driven man, he also built a log cabin home for himself and his family, which he continues to live in.

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Follow our journey building the new Navajo Code Talkers Museum.