U.S. Representative Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) this week presented military medals to the family of World War II Veteran Walter Gann.
In 1941, the 18-year-old Calhoun City resident was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Forces. Five months later, Mr. Gann and his comrades, charged with protecting the Bataan Peninsula, were fiercely attacked by the Imperial Japanese Army. After months of battle, with rapidly dwindling supplies, they were forced to surrender.
On March 8, 1942, Mr. Gann was among approximately 76,000 American and Filipino troops forced to walk some 65 miles without adequate food, water, or shelter from the heat. The soldiers who survived the experience endured torture and starvation in Prisoner of War (POW) camps.
Mr. Gann was a POW for 3.5 years, where he was forced to work in coal mines. He managed to survive the experience and eventually settled in Booneville, marrying Juanita Goddard in 1949.
Throughout his life, he was plagued by his war experiences and wounds he suffered in battle and as a POW. In his later years, Mr. Gann lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, until he passed away on October 14, 1980.
In January, Debbie Stolz, Mr. Gann’s daughter, began an effort to acquire military medals that her father earned, but never received. Her journey began with the Booneville Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) George Robert Mitchell Post 4877 and came to fruition with Congressman Kelly in the lead.
“Mr. Gann was a war hero,” Rep. Kelly said. “It is unimaginable what he endured, but he did so in the name of liberty. Freedom is not free. The price is paid with the blood of great Patriots who will always be remembered for their service.”
During a gathering of family, friends, and members of the community at the Booneville VFW, Rep. Kelly presented Debbie Stolz and numerous members of Mr. Gann’s family with the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in active ground combat, the Prisoner of War Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.
Mr. Gann has been verified to receive the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.
DeSoto County News Services