Iron John’s Brewing Co.

Code Talker American Strong Ale

Tucson, AZ

(pdf version)

     The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established by the U.S. Government in 1824 to help manage relations between the United States and its indigenous population. To say the least, those relations were greatly strained at the time as many Native Americans were being forcibly relocated to Indian reservations. At its inception, the bureau certainly had the interests of white American settlers in mind and many of their decisions were quite controversial, especially the procedure of removing Native American children from their reservations and forcing them into boarding schools where they were forced to learn the practices of white American culture instead of their indigenous culture. Chester Nez was one of those children; but to the good fortune of everyone in the world, he never lost his Navajo heritage.

     Born in Chi Chil Tah, NM, Chester Nez (1921-2014) was taken from his Navajo reservation as a child and sent to a state-run boarding school in Tuba City, AZ. It was there he was given his English name “Chester”, after U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, and was told not to speak his native language anymore, a language that would later help win World War II. It was from this same boarding school that Nez was later recruited into the U.S. Marine Corps.

Nez lied about his age in order to enlist in 1942. He was sent to Camp Elliott in California along with 28 other Navajo servicemen and was assigned the task of creating a code that could be transmitted by American soldiers but not translated by the enemy. Radio communication technologies were limited during WWII and opposing transmissions were commonly intercepted. No sort of modern encryption technology existed and if the enemy could pick up an American radio signal and understand English, Allied military plans could easily be exposed, something that occurred quite frequently during the war.

     The Navajo soldiers were chosen because their native language has unusual syntax and no written form, and therefore no non-Navajo person could understand it. Even English speakers didn’t have a clue what was being transmitted. The Navajo code talkers developed a unique code that used Navajo words and they worked in pairs with one transmitting the message while the other received it and translated it to their commanders. Nez was assigned to work in Guadalcanal, a Pacific island east of Australia, where he transmitted, received and translated many top-secret communications, all with great success. The code that was created by the Navajo Code Talkers helped the Allies break through the communications barrier that had plagued them in battle for years and is often credited as one of the major reasons for the Allies’ victory.

     Chester Nez also saw combat in the Pacific islands and was honorably discharged as a Private First Class following WWII. He returned to the U.S. but served again during the Korean War, this time earning a promotion to corporal, and then retired from the military. Between wars, Nez attended the University of Kansas where he studied the commercial arts but was never able to graduate due to a lack of funds. He followed his military service by working as a painter for 25 years at a V.A. Hospital in Albuquerque, NM.

     In 2001, President George W. Bush awarded Nez and four other surviving Navajo code talkers the Congressional Gold Medal. This recognition, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest award a civilian can receive in the United States. Nez was also given an honorary bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 2012.

     Chester Nez lived to be 93 years old and at the time of his passing was the last surviving Navajo code talker. Fortunately, three years before his death and with the assistance of Judith Avila, Nez released a memoir entitled Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII. Iron James Brewing Company’s Code Talker American Strong Ale was named in honor of this American hero.

From the Brewer:  This American Strong Ale is packed with malt and hops.  The hop profile has a spicy and earthy aroma, with slight fruit character.  This is a malty, medium bodied ale with a beautiful caramel hue.  The Code Talker was named after Chester Nez, the Navajo Code Talker, who fought for the Marine Corps during WWII, and exemplified “American Strong”.  ABV 8%, IBU 81
John Adkisson - Founder


Chester Nez