MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee man killed in the line of duty during World War II has finally received a headstone, 76 years after making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Staff Sgt. Walter Schaller served in Wisconsin's 32nd “Red Arrow” Division’s Company I, 128th Infantry Regiment. He deployed to Papua New Guinea, where he survived the Buna campaign in 1942, according to the Wisconsin National Guard.
His division returned to Australia for rest before returning to battle, this time at Saidor in New Guinea. Seven weeks into the campaign, Schaller was killed when he stepped on a landmine.
Schaller was buried in the jungle. In 1949, he was brought home and buried in an unmarked grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee.
But on Sept. 10, 2020 - 71 years later - Schaller's headstone was dedicated during a memorial service at Holy Cross.
Schaller received the headstone in part due to the efforts by local historian Tom Mueller, who volunteered in the Milwaukee War Memorial Center’s project to preserve the history and memory of fallen soldiers.
“I have been a working journalist since 1972 and written about the ultimate sacrifice since 1984, and this is one of the best stories yet,” Mueller said during the dedication.
The Wisconsin National Guard recently began a partnership with Papua New Guinea. As the program director, Lt. Col. Derek Schultheiss has been in close contact with the embassy.
“I have heard heart-warming stories from the embassy team in Port Moresby that the people of Papua New Guinea have not forgotten the sacrifices of the American Soldiers of the 32nd Division, and that they stand united with us as we face future challenges,” Schultheiss said.
See more photos of the dedication here.