Ehlers, Walter David “Walt”, born on 07-05-1921, in Junction City, Kansas, grew up in Kansas during the depression which wasn’t easy, as about the only things one could count on was family, friends, and faith. The Ehlers family didn’t have a lot of personal possessions, but they learned to get by, trusting in each other and the faith that held them together.
Young Walt Ehlers decided to join the Army on 04-10-1940. His older brother Roland decided to join with him, and so it was that both men found themselves training for war in the Pacific when Pearl Harbour was attacked. Early in 1942 Walter and Roland shipped out with their division but not to the Pacific. Instead they were assigned to combat in North Africa. From North Africa to Sicily, through 3 major campaigns over almost 4 years, the two brothers remained together.
Then, during the fighting in Sicily, Roland was wounded and sent back to Africa for treatment. Walter continued to serve until his unit was sent to England to train for a major offensive. While preparing for the invasion of Europe, Roland rejoined the unit…and his brother Walter. It was to be a short-lived reunion.
By D-Day on June 6, 1944, Ehlers was a staff sergeant and squad leader in the 18th Infantry Regiment , 1st Infantry Division under command of Major General Clarence Ralph Huebner . The division lost 3,616 killed in action, 15,208 wounded in action, and 664 died of wounds. 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 machine gun nests. The next day the platoon came under heavy fire. Ehlers was wounded and the bullet also hit his mother’s picture which he carried with him , 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 19-12-1944. Ehlers was one of only 3.454 to receive the highest U.S. military decoration, presented by Lieutenant General John Clifford Hodges Lee.
On July 14, more than a month after D-Day, Ehlers learned that his brother Roland had died at Omaha Beach on 06-06-1944, age 26, when his landing craft was struck by a mortar shell.
Then the young hero was flown home for celebrations in Manhattan, Kansas and Christmas with his family. But it bothered him to think of his men spending Christmas in the field, facing the dangers of a desperate enemy. He requested and received permission to return, finishing the war with the men of his battalion.
He survived the war and went on to work for the Veterans Administration, and as a security guard at Disneyland, California. He 50 years later visited Omaha Beach to honor his brother
Death and burial ground of Ehlers, Walter David “Walt”.
Walter Ehlers died on 20-02-2014 of kidney failure in Long Beach, California. He was 92 years old. He was buried at Riverside National Cemetery, Section 20 A in Riverside, California.