52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: 7th Week Platoon Sergeant Merrit Cecil Walton

This post is in response to the challenge of posting about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks by Amy Johnson Crow

This week we visit my 1st cousin, 1x removed, Merrit Cecil Walton. The impetus for writing this post at this time is my great grand nephew, Dristyn. He and his father Nick were using information from this blog to complete a homework assignment and Dristyn indicated he’d like to read something about the family’s involvement in World War II.   So, here goes.

Merrit Cecil Walton was born in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota on December 18, 1915 (some show the date to be in 1916) to Cecil and Clara (Haugen) Walton. He was named in honor of his paternal grandfather and his father. His parents were soon divorced and in 1920 he lived  with his mother and her new husband in Sioux Falls, South Dakota under the name Merrit Olson. In 1933 he moved with his widowed mother and siblings to Sutton, Nebraska and on May 19, 1937 he enlisted in the U.S. Marines in San Francisco, California. He served his first assignment in San Diego, California.

In the fall of 1937 he shipped overseas with the 4th Marine Regiment and was stationed at Shanghai, China.

Sergeant Merrit Cecil Walton

Sergeant Merrit Cecil Walton

While there he saw part of the battle for the city between the Chinese and Japanese forces which was one of the early examples of Japanese aggression in the South Pacific. On May 10, 1939 Merrit was promoted to Private, 1st Class and in the fall of 1940 he returned to the United States. He served first at Mare Island, Vallejo, California and then at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. On August 1, 1941 he was promoted to Sergeant and the outbreak of World War II sent him to Quantico, Virginia for paratrooper training and then a short duty at New River, North Carolina.

During Christmas, 1941 Merrit returned to Sutton, Nebraska to visit his mother and other relatives in the area before shipping overseas to the South Pacific. On April 8, 1942 he was promoted to Platoon Sergeant and subsequently took part in the Guadalcanal Campaign which included the battle for the Solomon Islands. He was serving in Company A of the 1st Parachute Battalion of the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) that was selected to land in the Solomon Islands in August 1942. Companies A and B landed on the Island of Gavutu on the morning of August 7, 1942. Gavutu was supposed to be lightly defended but instead held a large complement of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese, being forewarned by marine landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, met the landing with fierce resistance.

Platton Sergeant Walton was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross and a share of the

Navy Cross

Navy Cross

Presedential Unit Citation awarded to the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced). I believe that the official wording of the Navy Cross citation tells his story as well as anything.  “The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Platoon Sergeant Merritt C. Walton (MCSN: 259041), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with the FIRST Parachute Battalion, FIRST Marine Division, during the assault on enemy Japanese forces at Gavutu, Solomon Islands, on 7 August 1942. Although fully aware of his extreme personal danger, Platoon Sergeant Walton voluntarily proceeded to reconnoiter the position of a hostile machine gun which threatened his platoon’s right flank. After skillfully spotting the weapon’s location, he courageously participated in a daring attack and realized success in silencing this deadly menace before he died of fatal wounds. Platoon Sergeant Walton’s unflinching determination and unconquerable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.General Orders: SPOT AWARD, Commander, South Pacific: Serial 1113 (SofN Signed December 4, 1943)”  Anyone wanting to read a first hand account of the battle for Gavutu and the neighboring island of Tanambogo should read Chapter 3 of the online ebook by Leonard Skinner.

Later one more award was accorded Merrit Cecil Walton. The U.S. Destroyer Escort, USS Walton (DE-361) was0636199 named in his honor. On March 21, 1944 the keel was laid in Orange, Texas by the Consolidated Steel Corporation and launched on May 20, 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Clara Olson, Merrit’s mother. It was commissioned on September 4, 1944 with Lt. Commander Wilbur S. Wills, Jr. in command. In it’s 22 year career, the USS Walton saw active duty in World War II, The Korean War and the Viet Nam War. In addition, it served many times as a training vessel and was inactivated several times. It was finally decommissioned on September 20. 1968, removed from the Navy list September 23, 1968 and sunk as a target on August 7. 1969. Useful to the last!
USS Walton DE 361 off the coast of Pearl Harbor 1962

USS Walton DE 361 off the coast of Pearl Harbor 1962

Sources:

http://www.specialforcesroh.com/showthread.php?23867-Walton-Merritt-Cecil

http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/escorts/de361.htm

http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/w2/walton.htm

http://www.suttonhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2011/11/suttons-first-wwii-casualty-marine-sgt.html

http://www.navsource.org/archives/06/361.htm

http://members.peak.org/~skinncr/oneman/onemansview.html

Military Times Hall of Valor;    http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=8430

Ancestry.com. World War II Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Casualties, 1941-1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: State Summary of War Casualties from World War II for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Personnel [Archival Research Catalog]; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Year: 1920; Census Place: Sioux Falls Ward 5, Minnehaha, South Dakota; Roll: T625_1724; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 187; Image: 807. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

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About larrytom2

Older guy interested in genealogy and family issues.
This entry was posted in 52 Ancestors, Ancestry Information and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: 7th Week Platoon Sergeant Merrit Cecil Walton

  1. chmjr2 says:

    A sad story, but well told. We all have so many ancestors that gave their life so we can enjoy life today. Sadly I see no end to this.

  2. Rod Ulibarri says:

    Tom, a great story about a Great American and cousin. I just noticed something ironic today reading the article. Merrit died on August 7 and the USS Walton was sunk on August 7. Merrit died at age 26 and the Uss Walton was 26 years old when it was sunk. I thought this was very interesting.

    • larrytom2 says:

      That is interesting and I sure never noticed it!!! Something else I found interesting is that in 1920 and 1930 he was on the census rolls as “Olson”. I wonder how many “missing” ancestors just show up under a different name we have no way of knowing about!

  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 7 Recap | No Story Too Small

  4. Enjoyed your story of a hero not only to the family but a greatfull nation, as demonstrated in the Destoyer being named in his honor.

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