Walter D. Ehlers

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division
Medal of Honor, WWII

“When I enlisted in the United States Army, I had to get my dad’s and mother’s signatures. My dad had agreed to sign. My mother said, with tears in her eyes, ‘I will sign if you promise to be a Christian soldier.’ I assured her I would do my best. It wasn’t easy being a Christian soldier, but each time I was tempted, I would see the tears in my mother’s eyes and I would remember my promise.

I also would realize I had made a commitment to God. I had no intention of dishonoring my mother and, above all, God. My faith in God, my fellow men, and myself, made the difference. This is why I am a survivor of the war. In order to have faith in yourself, you must arm yourself with complete knowledge of your job. Requirements include honesty, compassion, courage, education, faith, and commitment. I am not a saint, but my faith and determi-nation to do my best worked for me.”


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, re-peatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation re-quired 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 pro-tected 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 effec-tively 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, ma-chinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to with-draw. 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 car-ried 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 ag-gressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve as an inspiration to others.

THE PRAYERS OF A MOTHER
I grew up on a farm near Manhattan, Kansas. My oldest brother, Roland, and I both enlisted at the same time and began our training at Fort Lewis, Washington. When we found out we were going to North Africa, we were in the same Infantry company. We landed at Casablanca and were together during the North Africa campaign, and we were together again in Sicily. Roland was wounded in Sicily and was sent back to Africa to recover, but we were together again in England before the Normandy Invasion on D-Day. Because of the danger, our company Commander decided to put us in different companies prior to the invasion.

On D-Day, my landing craft dropped us off in water so deep that it was over our heads. When we finally made it to the beach, the men wanted to lie down. I told them we had to get off the beach or we would all be killed. We made our way up a steep hill and knocked out a bunker. This allowed us to get off the beach. Over the next few days I tried to find out about Roland, but he was declared Missing-In-Action. It was over a month before I finally re-ceived the news that he had been killed on the beach when his landing craft was hit by mortar or artillery fire.

Within a few days my squad was involved in fierce fighting. It was because of this action that the men in my squad requested that I receive the Medal of Honor. During the firefight, I was wounded by an enemy sniper. The bullet struck me in the ribs and went around to my back and into my backpack. The bullet tore through the pack and struck the edge of my mother’s picture.

During the war I carried and read my pocket New Testament that included the Psalms. I found great comfort in reading the twenty-third Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. I also found great com-fort knowing that my family, and especially my mother, were praying for me. In every letter I received from my mother, she told me she was praying for me and for my two brothers. She had three sons in the war.

I guess my New Testament must have been lost when I was wounded. About ten years after the war, it arrived in the mail. A German lady sent it to my mother because her name and address were written in the front pages of the Bible. Apparently the woman’s children found the Bible under some rocks behind their home. The lady, not knowing if I survived the war, said she wanted to send the Bible, hoping that it would comfort my mother. Mom was thrilled to receive it, but she was just as excited to realize that it was worn from my reading it during the war. She realized that I had tried to be a Christian soldier. My mother was an inspiration to me and to our family. Where would we be without mothers that pray for us?