West Mifflin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid has nominated one of its own for Southwestern Pennsylvania’s top military honor. Former VFW Post 914 life member Joseph J. Walters has been submitted for induction into the Joseph A. Dugan Jr. Hall of Valor at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland.
A winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber during World War II, Walters’ submission packet was hand-delivered for consideration by the post’s service officer in October. According to VFW Post 914 commander Jake Bradich, the honor should have arrived sooner. The veterans’ service unit only learned the extent of Walters’ heroism during his funeral last September.
“The Walters family had Joe’s medals displayed,” says Bradich. “Several of the post’s officers saw that he had won the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
Awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight, the DFC is one of the top valor medals conferred by the United States. Walters received his decoration for actions during 15 bombing missions where he shot down enemy fighter aircraft and warded off attacks by several others. In all, he was personally credited with destroying three hostile fighter planes.
“Sergeant Walters displayed courage and presence of mind when he encountered experiences involving great personnel danger and vital decisions under hazardous conditions,” reads Walters’ DFC citation. “The courage, coolness and skill displayed by Sergeant Walters on all these occasions reflect highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Walters’ other awards and decorations include four awards of the Air Medal, a Purple Heart Medal, the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Word War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal. All of his valor and combat medals were awarded during a six-month span
As a post commander in the nation’s largest organization of combat veterans, Bradich said his group is quick to honor a real hero when they find one. Knowing where to look, he said, is the key: “The bravest of us aren’t found in comic books, video games or in the movies. Like Joe, they are usually your friends, neighbors and members of your community who at some point in their lives, did far more than what was expected of them, often at great risk and sacrifice.”
Walters is not the first from the West Mifflin veterans’ organization to be sponsored for induction into the Hall of Valor. In 2011, VFW Post 914 nominated Vincent Hoover, who was awarded a Silver Star for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A West Mifflin native, Hoover won the Silver Star while assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Bn, 22nd Infantry Regiment. Ten months into his Iraq deployment while conducting a patrol in Baghdad, a grenade was thrown into his vehicle. He immediately grabbed the device and threw it outside while yelling to the driver to leave the vicinity. The grenade exploded after being thrown out and the lives of all in the vehicle were saved.
Bradich, also a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, hopes with the rest of his unit that Walters becomes the second VFW Post 914 Intrepid member enshrined in the Hall of Valor. The group should know of the World War II veteran’s confirmation soon.
For more information about the VFW Post 914, visit traa.weebly.com/vfw-post-914.html or call (412) 464-9838.
Michael Mauer is a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin. He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions as a military reporter in Operation Desert Storm.