Walter David Ehlers MOH

b. 07/05/1921 Junction City, Kansas. d. 20/02/2014 Long Beach, California.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 09-10/06/1944 Goville, France.

Walter D Ehlers MOH

Walter Ehlers was born on a farm in Junction City, Kansas on May 7, 1921, and enlisted in the Army in October of 1940, along with his older brother, Roland. Both men were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, 30th Infantry Regiment – Walter was trained as a mortarman, while Roland was a scout. In November of 1942 they shipped out for North Africa where they saw President Roosevelt up close when he reviewed the troops at Casablanca. Soon afterwards, both brothers were both transferred to the First Infantry Division, assigned to K Company, 18th Regiment, and fought at El Guettar, where their company held off a German panzer unit advance at great cost, and then helped push the enemy all the way to the Mediterranean. The Ehlers next fought in Sicily, and were subsequently sent back to England to train for D Day. Before the invasion, their company commander told the brothers that casualties for the invasion could be as high as 50 percent, and that the Army had therefore decided to separate them. Walter was promoted to sergeant, made a squad leader and transferred to L Company.

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. He received the Medal in Paris, France from Lt General John C. H. Lee. 

On July 14, more than a month after D-Day, Ehlers learned that his brother Roland had died at Omaha Beach when his landing craft was struck by a mortar shell. Ehlers rejoined his unit after he recovered, and fought through the rest of the Normandy campaign. He was wounded twice in the fall of 1944 – from aerial bombardment near Falaise, and from a mortar in the Hurtgen Forest. In November of 1944 he was on his way to rejoin his unit once again when he read in Stars and Stripes that the Army had decided to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in June in Normandy. He was promoted again, to second lieutenant, and given a 30 day leave – which meant that was home in Kansas during the Battle of the Bulge. In the spring of 1945, Ehlers led his platoon across the Rhine at Remagen, and was wounded again in April, when a new GI accidentally discharged his rifle, hitting Ehlers in the leg and hip. When the war in Europe ended, Ehlers was discharged and returned home to Kansas.

After returning home to Kansas, he moved to California and worked as a counselor for the Veterans Administration and later as a security guard at Disneyland. In 1955 he appeared in the film “The Long Gray Line,” that starred Tyrone Power. He met and married Dorothy Decker and they went on to have three children, and 11 grandchildren. Walter died of kidney failure aged 92 on 20th February 2014.



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.