George E. Wahlen, a World War II Navy corpsman who received the Medal of Honor for actions at Iwo Jima, died Friday in Utah.
Wahlen, who was 84, enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor at age 20. His citation reads:
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 frontlinesto 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.
Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest actions of the Pacific Campaign. More than 6,800 American troops were killed and more than 19,000 wounded during the month-long battle.
Of the 22,786 Japanese soldiers entrenched on the island, 21,703 died either from fighting or by ritual suicide. Only 1,083 were captured during the battle.
Wahlen’s service didn’t end with the conclusion of World War II. He later re-enlisted in the United States Army, where he served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
He retired with the rank of Major after being awarded a Purple Heart and serving in all four branches of the United States Military, according to Wikipedia.
As a civilian he worked for over a decade with the Veteran’s Administration, where he retired at the age of 59.
He died Friday at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a facility named for him because of his life dedicated to working for veterans and veterans issues, according to the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner.