joi, 10 februarie 2011

D-Day Ceremony

U.S. Medal of Honor recipient and D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers tells about his experience on D-Day during the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2007. (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)
Here's the story of Medal of Honor recipient and D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers and his brother, Roland:
The First Division landed at Omaha beach. Walter's craft hit a sand bar and the men had to jump into water over their head to make their way to the beach. A few hundred yards further down the beach Roland's Company was also landing. There was no time to worry for each other, each brother having responsibilities of their own to attend. Walter began to lead his squad off the beach. They were taking fire from enemy bunkers on the bluffs overlooking the beach, and Walter knew the only chance of survival was to keep his men together and attack the high ground. He led them by his example. After a 6-hour battle to reach the hills, they finally broke through the German defenses. Walt's courage and leadership that day saved his platoon and earned him the Bronze Star Medal. Then, as night fell, he went looking for Roland.
In the darkness and devastation of D-Day at Omaha, it was difficult to find anyone, but at last Walter found Roland's Platoon Sergeant. He asked about Roland, and was told only that his brother was "Missing In Action". Worried, Staff Sergeant Walter Ehlers returned to his squad and the fighting that still lay ahead...
By June 9th Walt Ehlers' squad was far ahead of most other Allied troops, and Sgt. Ehlers himself was at the head of his men. In an early morning attack his company was pinned down in an open field by fire from machine-gun nests and two mortar pits. Without orders Sgt. Ehlers jumped to his feet and headed towards the first machine-gun nest. Suddenly a patrol of 4 enemy confronted him. Quickly the Sergeant killed all four, then proceeded to advance on and single-handedly destroy the machine-gun nest and its crew of eight enemy. He called to his squad to move up and join him as he turned his attention towards the mortar pits that threatened to destroy the company. Before continuing the advance he gave an unusual order...."Fix bayonets". Later he recounted, "It had a psychological effect on the Germans. They looked horrified and started running." Ehlers knocked out that position, then his men started taking fire from yet another machine-gun nest. Again, at a point ahead of everyone else, Sergeant Ehlers advanced on and single-handledly knocked out that enemy position.
By the following day Sergeant Ehlers and his platoon were so far ahead of everyone else they were literally surrounded by Germans. The platoon was ordered to withdraw, and Sergeant Ehlers' squad assumed the responsibility of covering the withdrawal of the rest of the unit. Sergeant Ehlers and his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man stood back to back to draw enemy fire upon themselves and rain effective fire against the enemy to cover the safe withdrawal of the platoon. First the BAR man was shot and wounded, then a rifle round struck Sergeant Ehlers in the back. Ehlers turned quickly and saw the sniper that had wounded him and was able to kill the enemy soldier. Then, despite his own wound, he carried the stricken BAR man from the battlefield before returning to recover the badly needed BAR.

The medics began treating Sergeant Ehlers' wound and quickly learned that the bullet had hit him in the side, glanced off a rib, and exited from his pack. Inside that pack was a picture of Walter and Roland Ehlers' mother, and the bullet had torn away the edged of the folder it was in...
Over the coming weeks Sergeant Ehlers continued to do his job, leading his men. He was wounded three more times and sent to the hospital twice. Then he learned he was to receive the Medal of Honor. It was presented in the field in Paris on December 14, 1944 by Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee. 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. Said Mr. Ehlers at a patriotic event in Pueblo, Colorado in 1995:
"Liberty is worth fighting for, and sometimes worth dying for."