By J. Parker RobertsMarch 4, 2014
Editor's note: This is part one of a three-part series on 1st Infantry Division veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Ehlers.
A Medal of Honor recipient, former 1st Infantry Division Soldier and Junction City native, Walter Ehlers died Feb. 20 in Long Beach, Calif. He was 92.
Ehlers, who received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant in 1944, was a staff sergeant six months earlier when he earned the Medal of Honor. He was the last living Medal of Honor recipient who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day and served with the 1st Inf. Div.'s 18th Infantry Regiment. His passing means there are now 75 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Ehlers died Feb. 20 at a Long Beach hospital of kidney failure, his wife, Dorothy, told The Associated Press.
The staff sergeant earned his Medal of Honor "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" on June 9 and 10, 1944, when he went ahead of his men to defend his squad, blocking his Soldiers from enemy gunfire despite being wounded in the back. He then carried a fellow Soldier to safety before returning to the battlefield to retrieve his rifle.
He left the Army in October 1945 and spent the next four decades of his life working for and with his fellow veterans.
"Walt Ehlers represented the best attributes of Soldiers serving with the 1st Inf. Div. -- being brave, responsible and on point," said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley commanding general. "His acts of courage in the face of the enemy during World War II demonstrated what a true hero he was, and his legacy will stand the test of time. For all Soldiers and civilians representing the greater Flint Hills Region, we give him one last salute."
In addition to his wife of 58 years, Ehlers is survived by daughters Cathy Metcalf and Tracy Kilpatrick; his son, retired Lt. Col. Walter D. Ehlers Jr.; sisters Leona Porter, Marjorie Gustin and Gloria Salberg; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.