SGT Walter William McElvain
44th Infantry Division, Signal Company
Died 26 Jan, 1946
Percy Jones Army Hospital, Battle Creek, Michigan
-- Walter William McElvain, Jr. --
Born July 13, 1913, Walter William McElvain was the only child of Samuel William McElvain and Gail Catherine
(Kerr) McElvain of Bloomington, Indiana. Walter graduated in 1931 from Bloomington High School where he played
varsity basketball. He attended Indiana University, where he was a member of the Hoosiers' tennis team, graduating
in 1937. He worked as a reporter and editor for the local newspaper in Bloomington and occasionally worked as a local
correspondent for the Indianapolis Star and Chicago Tribune. He was accepted to the IU Law School but never got to
One month after the bombing at Pearl Harbor Walter married Josephine Ann Fortner, who was nearly nine years younger
than he. Nine months later, their first child, Patrick, died at birth.
Walter applied to Officer Candidate School at two different branches of the service, but was turned down. He was
drafted and inducted into the U. S. Army in February 1943. He was almost 30 years old. He was sent to Fort Lewis,
Washington, for basic training. My mother traveled by train to Tacoma, Washington, to stay with him for the next months
until their unit moved to Camp Polk, Louisiana. I was born April 24, 1944, in Bloomington, while my father was stationed
at Camp Phillips, Kansas. He was shipped overseas on September 5, 1944, landing at Cherbourg, France. He actively
participated in the liberation of France as a member of the 44th Infantry Division, entering combat in October. During
this time he was promoted from private to corporal to sergeant.
They pushed the Nazis back across France and on March 22, 1945, crossed the Rhine into Germany. The 44th would later
receive four battle stars for their efforts. Walter survived the artillery and mortar. But on April 26, 1945, he was
admitted to an Army field hospital in Germany with swelling in his neck. In May, 1945 he was transferred to an Army
field hospital in Commercy, France. He was flown back to the states, where he died of Hodgkin's disease in Percy Jones
Army Hospital. He left behind a 24 year old widow and one child, Walter William McElvain, Jr. His name is engraved on a
plaque at the Monroe County Court House along with the other local WWII soldiers who died in service.
In 1983, while I was cleaning out my grandmother's house, I found several shoeboxes full of letters my father wrote home
while in the service. He must have written every day! Many of them were from training camp; later ones were from the
European Front describing his war experiences. My grandmother had kept them for sentimental reasons, but she didn't
realize their historical significance. It wasn't until 2002 that I had time to sort through them all. I have taken a
few of them and put them on a website located at http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/mcelvain.