Born in Massachusetts, April 7, 1922, he earned the Medal of Honor while serving in the South Pacific with the 5th Marine Division. He was on Iwo Jima on February 27, 1945, advancing toward Hill 362 when his company was attacked by machine gun fire. He led an assault against the enemy position and was killed when a grenade fell in the midst of his unit. His citation reads in part:
“Gunnery Sergeant Walsh in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the deadly bomb, absorbing with his own body the full and terrific force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life and enabled his company to seize and hold this vital enemy position.”
His brother, Army Chaplain Cormac Walsh, a Franciscan Priest, won four Silver Stars and a Presidential Citation for aiding wounded troops while under heavy enemy fire in Korea. Their father, a Boston fireman, died while saving people from a burning building.
Sergeant Walsh was subsequently buried with full military honors in Section 12, Grave 487, of Arlington National Cemetery.
Marine Gunnery Sergeant William G. Walsh, native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, threw himself on a hand grenade to save the lives of other Marines at the loss of his own life, during the epic struggle for Iwo Jima. For this heroic act, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis A. Walsh, of Roxbury, Sergeant Walsh attended public schools in Boston before enlisting in the Marine Corps in April, 1942. He received his basic or boot training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and advanced training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
From Camp Lejeune, he went to Samoa and was assigned to a unit of Marine Scouts. His next assignment was with the famed Carlson's Raiders. During this nation's war with Japan in the Pacific, the gunnery sergeant saw action at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, and in the Russell Islands.
Following two years of service in the Pacific theatre, he returned to the United States. He returned overseas later with the 5th Marine Division in time for the Iwo Jima invasion but during the interval in the U.S., he married Mary Louiso Ponrod, a former member of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve.
It was at Iwo, while loading his men against a fortified hill on February 27, 1945, that the incident occurred which took his life but won for him the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
Initially buried the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, GySgt Walsh's remains were later reinterred in Arlington National' Cemetery on April 20, 1948.
WALSH, WILLIAM GARY
Rank and organization: Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 7 April 1922, Roxbury, Massachusetts Accredited to: Massachusetts.
For extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of an assault platoon, attached to Company G, 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands on 27 February 1945. With the advance of his company toward Hill 362 disrupted by vicious machinegun fire from a forward position which guarded the approaches to this key enemy stronghold, G/Sgt. Walsh fearlessly charged at the head of his platoon against the Japanese entrenched on the ridge above him, utterly oblivious to the unrelenting fury of hostile automatic weapons fire and hand grenades employed with fanatic desperation to smash his daring assault. Thrown back by the enemy's savage resistance, he once again led his men in a seemingly impossible attack up the steep, rocky slope, boldly defiant of the annihilating streams of bullets which saturated the area. Despite his own casualty losses and the overwhelming advantage held by the Japanese in superior numbers and dominant position, he gained the ridge's top only to be subjected to an intense barrage of hand grenades thrown by the remaining Japanese staging a suicidal last stand on the reverse slope. When 1 of the grenades fell in the midst of his surviving men, huddled together in a small trench, G/Sgt. Walsh, in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the deadly bomb, absorbing with his own body the full and terrific force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life and enabled his company to seize and hold this vital enemy position. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
WALSH, WILLIAM GARY
- GY SGT USMC
- VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
- DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/20/1948
- BURIED AT: SECTION 12 SITE 487
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard