Walter D. Ehlers
|Walter David Ehlers|
Ehlers speaking at a 2007 ceremony commemorating the anniversary of D-Day
May 7, 1921|
Junction City, Kansas
|Died||February 20, 2014
Long Beach, California
|Place of burial||Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1940–1945|
|Unit||18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II
• Operation Torch
• Allied invasion of Sicily
• Normandy landings
|Awards||Medal of Honor, Silver Star, 3 Purple Heart|
By D-Day on June 6, 1944, Ehlers was a staff sergeant and squad leader in the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. His squad, part of the invasion's second wave, waited off shore in a Landing Craft, Infantry, while the first group of soldiers landed. When the first wave became pinned down on the beach, his unit was transferred to a Higgins boat and sent forward early to assist. They fought their way off the beach and by June 9 were near the town of Goville, 8 miles (13 km) inland. On that day, he led his unit's attack against German forces and single-handedly defeated several enemy machinegun nests. The next day the platoon came under heavy fire. Ehlers was wounded, but managed to cover the platoon's withdrawal; this included carrying a wounded rifleman to safety and running back through enemy fire to retrieve his automatic rifle. After treatment of his wounds, Ehlers refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his squad. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor six months later, on December 19, 1944.
Ehlers' Medal of Honor is on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana
Ehlers has a wife, 3 children, and 11 grandchildren, all of whom are still living. Only one however will carry on the family name, his grandson Gunnar.
Medal of Honor citation
Staff Sergeant Ehlers' official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 9–10 June 1944, near Goville, France. S/Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, S/Sgt. Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally killing 4 of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route. Then crawling forward under withering machinegun fire, he pounced upon the guncrew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2 mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machineguns, S/Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing 3 men himself. After mopping up the mortar positions, he again advanced on a machinegun, his progress effectively covered by his squad. When he was almost on top of the gun he leaped to his feet and, although greatly outnumbered, he knocked out the position single-handed. The next day, having advanced deep into enemy territory, the platoon of which S/Sgt. Ehlers was a member, finding itself in an untenable position as the enemy brought increased mortar, machinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to withdraw. S/Sgt. Ehlers, after his squad had covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, stood up and by continuous fire at the semicircle of enemy placements, diverted the bulk of the heavy hostile fire on himself, thus permitting the members of his own squad to withdraw. At this point, though wounded himself, he carried his wounded automatic rifleman to safety and then returned fearlessly over the shell-swept field to retrieve the automatic rifle which he was unable to carry previously. After having his wound treated, he refused to be evacuated, and returned to lead his squad. The intrepid leadership, indomitable courage, and fearless aggressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve as an inspiration to others.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Walter D. Ehlers.|
- Sgt. "Walter Ehlers, WWII Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 92" Check
|url=value (help). NBC News.com. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
- Rogers, John (26 February 2014). "Walt Ehlers: Staff sergeant who was awarded a US Medal of Honor for saving allied lives on the beach during D-Day". The Independent. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- WWII Army Enlistment Records
- Collier, Peter (2006). Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. New York: Workman Publishing Company. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-57965-314-9.
- "Medal of Honor Recipients – World War II (A–F)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- "Walter D. Ehlers, Honored for Role in Normandy Attack, Dies at 92". New York Times.com. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- Walter David "Walt" Ehlers at Find a Grave