10 June 2009

RIP: George E. Wahlen

George Edward Wahlen
8 Aug 1924 - 5 Jun 2009

ZUI this article from the Salt Lake City (UT) Deseret News:
One of George E. Wahlen's favorite stories to tell was about his wife.

After Wahlen — who died Friday, June 5, 2009, at the age of 84 — returned from battle at Iwo Jima at the end of World War II, the Navy corpsman spent nine months at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oceanside, Calif. Every night, hospital staff found him in fits, waking from violent nightmares.

"They thought he was cracking up," his wife, Melba Wahlen, recalled. Hospital personnel went as far as to isolate him in a lone room.


When they married one year later, his nightmares stopped because, as one of his daughters said Friday, he finally had his dream.

Wahlen passed away after a long and difficult battle with cancer, leaving behind his wife, five children, 27 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren.

Wahlen, a native of Ogden, is most noted for his valor in battle at Iwo Jima, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in 1945.


Most people who met Wahlen never knew any of this, including his own children when they were young. It was not until they were older that Wahlen divulged openly his time in Japan. Even then, "it was never about him," his son George Blake Wahlen said.

"He told us about Iwo Jima to teach us the importance of doing what you say you are going to do. He always said he was just doing his job."

George E. Wahlen later re-enlisted in the U.S. Army and served during the Korean and Vietnam wars.


After retiring from the Army with the rank of major, Wahlen joined the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, where he worked as an advocate for other veterans.

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Pharmacist's Mate Second Class, US Navy; 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division

Born: 8 August 1924, Ogden, Utah
Died: 5 June 2009, Salt Lake City, Utah

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano group on 3 March 1945. Painfully wounded in the bitter action on 26 February, Wahlen remained on the battlefield, advancing well forward of the frontlines to aid a wounded marine and carrying him back to safety despite a terrific concentration of fire. Tireless in his ministrations, he consistently disregarded all danger to attend his fighting comrades as they fell under the devastating rain of shrapnel and bullets, and rendered prompt assistance to various elements of his combat group as required. When an adjacent platoon suffered heavy casualties, he defied the continuous pounding of heavy mortars and deadly fire of enemy rifles to care for the wounded, working rapidly in an area swept by constant fire and treating 14 casualties before returning to his own platoon. Wounded again on 2 March, he gallantly refused evacuation, moving out with his company the following day in a furious assault across 600 yards of open terrain and repeatedly rendering medical aid while exposed to the blasting fury of powerful Japanese guns. Stouthearted and indomitable, he persevered in his determined efforts as his unit waged fierce battle and, unable to walk after sustaining a third agonizing wound, resolutely crawled 50 yards to administer first aid to still another fallen fighter. By his dauntless fortitude and valor, Wahlen served as a constant inspiration and contributed vitally to the high morale of his company during critical phases of this strategically important engagement. His heroic spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming enemy fire upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

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