Keith Little


Keith Little, who died on 3 January at the age of 87, was thepresident of the Navajo Code Talkers Association who travelled the US seeking funding for a museum and veterans centre. He preached about the preservation of Navajo traditions, culture and the language that the federal government tried to eradicate before he and others were called on to use it during the Second World War. He envisioned a place that would house the stories of the Navajo Code Talkers and where people could learn more about the famed group who used their native language as a weapon. The centre is expected to cost around $43 million.

Little was 17 when he joined the US Marine Corps, becoming one of hundreds of Navajos trained as Code Talkers. They used a code developed by 29 tribal members that was based on the then-unwritten Navajo language. Their code helped confound the Japanese and win the war.

"My motivation was to fight the enemy with a gun or whatever," Little said in an interview in 2009. "When I went into the Marine Corps ... I knew nothing about the Navajo code. It was really astonishing to me to get to Camp Pendleton and there were a bunch of Navajos there, and they were working with a Navajo code." Fellow platoon members referred to the Navajos as "walking secret codes," Little said, with each message having to be memorised and destroyed after it was sent or received.