Stewart Clah, 87, a Navajo code talker who helped confound the Japanese during World War II and was awarded a Congressional Silver Medal, has died.

Mr. Clah's family said he died Sunday in his sleep at his home in Tse' Daa' Kaan, an agricultural community in northwestern New Mexico.

The code talkers were an elite group of Navajo Marines who transmitted radio messages during the war in a coded version of their native language. The codes were never cracked by enemy forces; the talkers' existence was a military secret for decades after the war.

Twenty-nine original Navajo code talkers - the first group to graduate from training - were presented the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bush in 2001. Others among the more than 300 Navajos who qualified as code talkers received the Congressional Silver Medal.

Mr. Clah's relatives said he told them little about his war days but enjoyed swapping tales with fellow code talkers and often wore a code-talker baseball cap with the words I served with pride.

He served in Midway, Saipan, Guam and Guadalcanal. In August 1945, he was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan, and spent the next four months occupying the empty, bombed-out city. - AP