Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wow....


Last night Scott and I attended a Regimental Ball for the 18th Infantry. I had the honor and pleasure of shaking the hand of Walter D. Ehlers. Who is he, an why was this such an honor, you may ask? Because Walter D. Ehlers is a Medal of Honor Recipient.

Here is his citation, as listed on history.army.mil:

EHLERS, WALTER D.

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Place and dare: Near Goville, France, 9-10 June 1944. Entered service at: Manhattan, Kans. Birth: Junction City, Kans. G.O. No.: 91, 19 December 1944. Citation: 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 machine gun fire, he pounced upon the gun crew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2 mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machine guns, 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 machine gun, 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, machine gun, 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.

SSG Ehlers also spoke last night. He is a soft-spoken gentleman, but everyone in the room was riveted as he spoke. Even though some serious sound equipment failures, he continued to speak, and drew great applause.

Based on information found at Congressional Medal Of Honor Society, there are currently only 105 living recipients. Many of these received their award for action in WWII.

After listening to SSG Ehlers talk about his experience in Normandy, we realized that he came onto Omaha Beach after Scott's great-uncle Frederick Hopkins, who was in the first wave at Normandy. I created a scrapbook layout about this. It's all such an amazing experience! I wish I had my camera with me, but I opted to carry a very small clutch and didn't even have room for my little Kodak...it's a shame.

SSG Ehlers' son was seated at our table (amazingly enough, we were seated at a V.I.P. table and Scott was even introduced as a distinguished guest!) and we got to speak with him as well. Major Ehlers is currently working with ROTC at Kansas State University here in Manhattan. I wonder how many people realize that his dad won the Medal of Honor.

It was truly a great privilege. SSG Ehlers was also in the movie, The Long Grey Line (1955)

I leave you with a snippet of his story.

5 comments:

Christy said...

Meeting him definately sounds like a great experience! I am not one who gushes over people no matter their rank, but to meet people who've fought for their country so bravely and without a doubt with no concern for his own safety at the time is awesome and what makes one a true hero.

Thanks for sharing! :)

armytbonegirl said...

That's so awesome that you got to meet a MOH recipient! Definitely one for the memory books.

Heidi said...

This is impressive!

Oh... and I loved the photos you shared in the last post. Glad that you are having fun "exploring" your camera!

Turnip said...

Wow, that's an amazing story. I've been reading a lot of the MoHR descriptions. Unfortunately they were from the people buried in a Long Island Cemetary. Great to hear the stories while the people are still alive to thank them.

Nicole said...

That's very cool that you were able to meet a genuine war hero. As a kid, I was never into history but as I've gotten older I've really enjoyed the stories that make up our history. I love sitting and talking with my 92 year old grandmother. I hope my kids don't wait until they are in their late 30's to appreciate it all!