Joe Hosteen Kellwood, 95, passed away Monday in Phoenix, according to a spokesperson for the Navajo Nation.
“Joe Hosteen Kellwood served with distinction in the 1st Marine Division as a Navajo Code Talker, ultimately helping lead the Allied forces to victory in WWII,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a news release. “Today, as Arizonans celebrate the life of this amazing man, let us pray for his family, his friends, and the Navajo Nation. And let us never forget the countless contributions that code talkers have made to our state and our country.”
A spokesman for the Navajo Nation confirmed Kellwood’s passing.
In Navajo and in English, people sent condolences over social media to Kellwood’s family.
Ahe’hee, Mr. Joe Kellwood. Thank you, Marine.
Rest in Peace, Brave Warrior. Thank you for your service. My condolences to the family and to the Navajo Nation.
Oh Ya’at’ééh dóó’. So Sad and Sorry…Your Uncle is now made his journey to be with family in a world different with the Holy People as he is now.
Messages trickled in on social-media sites dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers across the nation.
Photos of Kellwood were posted on the Facebook page for the Greatest Generations Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to veterans recording the legacies of veterans.
In one photo, the young soldier with a crew cut is kneeling in the grass, holding a rifle. In a photo taken decades later, Kellwood’s graying hair is tucked under the signature red cap that Navajo Code Talkers wore.
More than 400 Navajos were recruited as Code Talkers. They transmitted battle messages in their native, unwritten language, creating a code Japanese soldiers couldn’t crack.
In a 1999 interview with Arizona Republic reporter Betty Reid, Kellwood remembered leaving Phoenix to join the Marines.