George Edward Wahlen

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George Edward Wahlen
George Wahlen  A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
George Wahlen
Born (1924-08-08)August 8, 1924
Ogden, Utah
Died June 5, 2009(2009-06-05) (aged 84)
Salt Lake County, Utah
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Flag of the United States Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1943 - 1945 (Navy)
1948 - 1968 (Army)
Rank Pharmacist's Mate Second Class (Navy)
Major (Army)
Unit 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines
Battles/wars World War II
 • Battle of Iwo Jima
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

George E. Wahlen (August 8, 1924 – June 5, 2009) was a United States Army major who previously served with the United States Navy and was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Biography[edit]

Wahlen receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman

At age 17 Wahlen trained as an aircraft mechanic and served at Hill Field in Utah, leading five other mechanics as crew chief for the United States Army Air Corps. He volunteered for the draft, hoping to work on aircraft, but became a Navy Corpsman. He volunteered for combat duty with the United States Marine Corps, was attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, and participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945. He received the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on October 5, 1945.

Wahlen spent nine months recovering from his wounds before being discharged in December 1945. He later re-enlisted in the United States Army, where he served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He retired in 1968 with the rank of Major after being awarded a Purple Heart. As a civilian he worked for over a decade with the Veteran's Administration, where he retired at the age of 59.

He is the subject of the book The Quiet Hero: The Untold Medal of Honor Story of George E. Wahlen at the Battle for Iwo Jima by Gary W. Toyn.

He died at age 84 and was buried on June 12, 2009. A large memorial service was held on June 18, 2009, attended by veterans of all ranges. The main entrance to the George E. Wahlen Medical Center was draped in black banners in his memory. Before his death, he was Utah's last living Medal of Honor recipient.[1]

Honors and legacy[edit]

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed legislation authorizing the naming of the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Since federal buildings cannot bear the name of a living person, Congress approved special legislation allowing for an exemption in the case of Wahlen.

A veterans' nursing home in Ogden, Utah, which opened in January 2010, was named in his honor.[1]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Pharmacist's Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy, serving with 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands group, March 3, 1945. Entered service at: Utah. Born: August 8, 1924, Ogden, Utah.

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano group on 3 March 1945. Painfully wounded in the bitter action on 26 February, Wahlen remained on the battlefield, advancing well forward of the frontlines to aid a wounded marine and carrying him back to safety despite a terrific concentration of fire. Tireless in his ministrations, he consistently disregarded all danger to attend his fighting comrades as they fell under the devastating rain of shrapnel and bullets, and rendered prompt assistance to various elements of his combat group as required. When an adjacent platoon suffered heavy casualties, he defied the continuous pounding of heavy mortars and deadly fire of enemy rifles to care for the wounded, working rapidly in an area swept by constant fire and treating 14 casualties before returning to his own platoon. Wounded again on 2 March, he gallantly refused evacuation, moving out with his company the following day in a furious assault across 600 yards of open terrain and repeatedly rendering medical aid while exposed to the blasting fury of powerful Japanese guns. Stouthearted and indomitable, he persevered in his determined efforts as his unit waged fierce battle and, unable to walk after sustaining a third agonizing wound, resolutely crawled 50 yards to administer first aid to still another fallen fighter. By his dauntless fortitude and valor, Wahlen served as a constant inspiration and contributed vitally to the high morale of his company during critical phases of this strategically important engagement. His heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming enemy fire upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Trentelman, Charles F. (January 26, 2010). "New veterans home in Ogden opens doors; first 2 residents expect reinforcements". Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah). Archived from the original on January 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients - World War II (T–Z)". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2010.