George Smith, a Navajo code talker who sent U.S. military communications to front lines during World War II, died this week in New Mexico, a Navajo leader said.
Smith was 90.
Navajo President Ben Shelly announced Smith's death Wednesday on his Facebook page.
Smith died at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., reported Thursday.
"This news has saddened me," Shelly said. "Our Navajo code talkers have been real life heroes to generations of Navajo people."
Smith was one of several hundred Navajo code talkers who passed secret military communications using code based on the Navajo language, CNN reported.
The U.S. military used the Navajo language because it is nearly impossible for a non-native speaker to learn and has no written form
Navajo code talkers were involved in every offensive the U.S. Marines carried out in the Pacific between 1942 and 1945, CNN reported.
"They have brought pride to our Navajo people in so many ways," Shelly said. "The nation's prayers and thoughts are with the family at this time as they mourn the passing of a great family man who served his country and protected his people."
Shelly said the Navajo Nation's flag would fly at half-staff until Sunday to honor Smith's life.
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