Hamilton County


Cpl. Walter John Lanken



Walter John Lanken was born June 26, 1924 to Christian and Anne Lanken. He died Sept. 19, 1950 in Korea. He is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Webster City, IA.

Corporal Lanken served with the U.S. Army in World War II and also served in Korea where he was killed in action. For service in Korea he was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Medical Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Korean War Service Medal. He was also posthumously awarded the silver star.

Death - Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, IA - Nov. 30, 1950

Cpl. Lanken Honored With Silver Star

Cpl. Walter J. Lanken, the first Webster City soldier reported killed in the Korean fighting, has been honored with the posthumous award of the silver star medal, Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters announced today in Tokyo.

The Webster City soldier, son of Mrs. Anna Lanken, 1125 First Street, was reported killed Sept. 19, while serving with his unit of the First cavalry division.

Today’s announcement from Tokyo, carried by the Associated Press, said Cpl. Lanken was awarded the silver star for heroism while administering aid to wounded men.

The Webster City serviceman was among 13 First cavalry heroes awarded silver stars for gallantry. On Sept. 19, when the enemy opened up with mortars and artillery on American tanks being repaired in a river bed near Singdon, a number of First Cavalry men were wounded, the AP dispatch said.

“Lanken rushed into the shell-torn area, administering aid to the badly wounded,” the announcement said. “The citation said his heroism saved many lives.”

Daily Freeman Journal, Feb. 14, 1951

Mrs. Lanken Given Son’s Silver Star

Mrs. Anne Lanken, mother of Cpl. Walter J. Lanken—the first Hamilton county soldier reported killed in the Korean war—today had the silver star award presented posthumously to her 26-year old son for gallantry in action.

In a ceremony at the Lanken home, 1125 First street in this city, Col. Cornelius Libbart, senior army instructor from Des Moines, made the presentation of this second highest combat award yesterday afternoon.

Last Sept. 19, Cpl. Lanken was serving as a member of a medical detachment attached to the 70th tank battalion which was supporting an infantry attack on a hill position.

“When several friendly tanks in a river bed for repairs came under heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire,” the award citation reads, “Seven of the tank crewmen were wounded. Corporal Lanken, disregarding his own safety, moved from man to man in the impact area, rendering first aid to the wounded. While engaged in this selfless consideration and treatment of others, Corporal Lanken lost his life when he was struck by a shell fragment.

“His voluntary and extreme devotion to duty on this occasion was an inspiring example and was responsible for saving the lives of many of the wounded men. Corporal Lanken’s conspicuous gallantry and selfless sacrifice reflect great credit upon himself and the military service.”

Lanken entered the army in May, 1943 and saw considerable duty in the states. He served in Germany with occupation troops from 1946 until 1949.

The silver star award is the highest medal yet awarded for combat duty by any Hamilton county serviceman in Korea.

Besides his mother, lanken is survived by two brothers and one sister.

Daily Freeman Journal, June 12, 1951

To Be Returned Here

The body of Cpl. Walter J. Lanken of Webster City, is one of 288 bodies of Americans, killed in Korea, returned to the United States today.

Cpl. Lanken was the first Webster City soldier lost in action in Korea and was posthumously honored with the silver star medal for bravery. He was killed while engaged in giving first aid to American troopers who had been injured during a Red artillery attack on U.S. tanks.

The body is expected to be returned here, with an escort, for burial in Webster City.

Source: ancestry.com