October 15, 2009
PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Willard Varnell Oliver, a member of the Navajo Code Talkers who confounded the Japanese during World War II by transmitting messages in their native language, died Wednesday. He was 88.
Lawrence Oliver said his father died at the Northern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System Hospital in Prescott, Ariz. He had been declining health for the past two years.
Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. ordered flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff from Oct. 15-19 in honor of Oliver, who is at least the fifth Code Talker to die since May.
Oliver was part of an elite group of Navajo Marines who confused the Japanese during World War II by transmitting messages in Navajo.
The Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. Their work was declassified in 1968.
Oliver, who grew up between Shiprock and Farmington, N.M., served in the South Pacific with the 2nd Marine Division from 1943 to 1945. He was wounded during the battle of Saipan of 1944.
Oliver's brother, Lloyd Oliver, was also a member of the elite group.