MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT— On February 20, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Walter E. Truemper was killed in action.
Walter Edward Truemper was born on October 31, 1918 in Aurora, Illinois. After high school,he attended business college and worked as an accounting clerk. He entered military service on June 23,1942. (Some accounts state he was drafted; others say he enlisted.)
After basic training, he served briefly with the 174th Field Artillery at Camp Bowie, Texas. In September 1942, he was accepted into the Aviation Cadet Program. He took pre-flight training at Ellington Field, Texas; flexible gunnery at Harlingen, Texas; and advanced navigator training at Hondo, Texas. He graduated on August 26, 1943 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.
He served with the 796th Bomb Squadron at Alexandria, Louisiana until December 1943 when he was assigned as part of a replacement crew to England. Arriving in England, he was assigned to the 510 Bomb Squadron, 351st Bomb Group located at RAF Polebrook.
He flew several combat missions between December 1943 and February 1944. On February 20, 1944 as part of “Big Week,” he flew on a mission to Leipzig. The aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters, and the pilot severely wounded and another member killed. The remainder of the crew bailed out except for Truemper and the flight engineer, SSgt Archie Mathias. Truemper and Mathias would not leave the wounded pilot, so attempted a landing. The aircraft crashed and all three were killed. Truemper and Mathias both were awarded the Medal of Honor.
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATIONFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy in connection with a bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe on 20 February 1944. The aircraft on which 2d Lt. Truemper was serving as navigator was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the result that the copilot was killed outright, the pilot wounded and rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the plane severely damaged Nevertheless, 2d Lt. Truemper and other members of the crew managed to right the plane and fly it back to their home station, where they contacted the control tower and reported the situation. 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer volunteered to attempt to land the plane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump, leaving 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer aboard. After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, 2d Lt. Truemper’s commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, 2d Lt. Truemper and the engineer replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and that they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After 2 unsuccessful efforts their plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. 2d Lt. Truemper, the engineer, and the wounded pilot were killed.