|Miami Herald, June 6, 2014.|
Photograph Charles Trainor Jr.
One day shy of the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, a multi-millionaire basketball player playing in the NBA Finals in San Antonio called it quits because he got a cramp.
Miami Herald, June 6, 2014:
SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James couldn’t walk.
The stifling heat inside the building had done its job on the back-to-back MVP of the NBA Finals. Leg cramping wouldn’t allow him to continue. James’ right thigh locked up violently under the basket, and he had to be helped off the court by his teammates and trainers.
They dropped James like a heap of sweating despair on the bench and he slammed his hand on press row in disgust. It was over.
Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2014:
Walter D. Ehlers, Medal of Honor recipient who took part in D-Day, dies at 92
By Matt Schudel
Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor to participate in the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II, died Feb. 20 at a veterans’ hospital in Long Beach, Calif. He was 92.
The Kansas-born Mr. Ehlers (pronounced EE-lers) joined the Army in 1940 along with his older brother, Roland. They spent much of the war together in the same units and took part in campaigns in North Africa and Sicily before the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France in 1944.
Both brothers were members of the same infantry regiment, but shortly before the Normandy invasion, Roland was transferred to a different company. They were several hundred yards apart, aboard separate landing craft, as the second wave of Allied forces swarmed ashore during the amphibious assault on Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, or D-Day.
Walter Ehlers in 2011.
Photo by Alex Gallardo/Reuters.
Walter Ehlers, then a staff sergeant, led his 12-man reconnaissance team onto the sands through water that was sometimes above their heads. They found a path that skirted German-laid land mines, crossed barbed-wire fences and moved inland.
“All 12 of us got off Omaha Beach without a man wounded, which was a miracle,” Mr. Ehlers told World War II magazine in 2012. “There were so many bodies everywhere. It was 60 times worse than ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ ”
A day after the invasion, he learned that his brother was missing, but that was all he knew. On June 9, Mr. Ehlers and his small unit came under attack. He spotted four German riflemen through an opening in a hedgerow and picked each of them off, one by one, before they could fire back.
Next, he crawled toward a Nazi machine-gun emplacement, sneaked in from behind and, in the terse language of his Medal of Honor citation, “put it out of action.”
With his team still under bombardment from two mortar positions and machine guns shooting in a crossfire, Mr. Ehlers ordered his troops to fix their bayonets.
“I came upon a mortar section with five or six people,” he told the Orange County Register in 1994. “That’s where my bayonet came in handy. They looked horrified and started running.”
Mr. Ehlers killed at least three enemy soldiers himself, then crawled toward another machine-gun position. He “leaped to his feet,” his citation noted, “and, although greatly outnumbered, he knocked out the position single-handed.”
The next day, surrounded by German soldiers, Mr. Ehlers and another soldier climbed a small rise and, standing completely exposed, kept up a steady barrage of rifle fire to allow the other men to withdraw.
Although Mr. Ehlers was shot through the back, he managed to carry a fellow soldier, who suffered more grievous wounds, from the field. He then returned to retrieve his fellow soldier’s rifle.
After having his wounds treated, Mr. Ehlers was unable to wear a backpack, so he strapped two bandoleers of bullets across his chest, grabbed his rifle and led his squad to safety. In a two-day period, he killed at least seven and as many as 18 German soldiers.
“I was very lucky,” Mr. Ehlers said in 2012, describing the bullet that made a clean transit through his body. The bullet hit a bar of soap in his pack, tore through the edge of an envelope containing a picture of his mother, then pierced his trench shovel.
“It was very close to my spinal cord,” he said. “I still have that picture of my mother, with that stern look her face that says, ‘How dare they!’ ”