ST. GEORGE — As a survivor of the China Burma India Theater, Sidney Walton is a living testimony to the brave men and women who fought against tyranny during World War II.
Walton, 101, is on the final stretch of a two-year nationwide tour to meet every governor across the United States.
Since beginning his tour, Walton has met with 28 governors across the country from Rhode Island to Hawaii.
With less than half the states left to visit, including a stopover in St. George where Mayor Jon Pike presented him with a proclamation Monday naming June 1 as Sidney Walton Day, Walton moved on for a scheduled meeting with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City.
On his way to Salt Lake City, Walton plans to stop at Zion National Park, and if time permits, Bryce Canyon National Park as well.
“I want to see everything,” he said.
Past highlights of the tour have included a meeting with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. He also had the honor of being one of four World War II veterans who participated in the 2020 Super Bowl coin toss.
Walton was visibly excited to be in St. George, mugging for television news cameras and waving to a crowd of admirers who gathered to send him off to Salt Lake City.
When Valerie King, regent of the Color Country Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presented Walton with a commemorative pin saying, “You have a lot of ladies who love you,” Walton swiftly replied, “That’s nice,” with an ear-to-ear grin.
His hopscotch cross country journey, dubbed The No Regrets Tour, is to atone for lost opportunities. Walton and his son are raising money to cover costs for the No Regret Tour through the public’s donations.
Walton has long-regretted missing the opportunity to meet Civil War veterans when he was young and now wants to give everyone the chance to meet a surviving World War II veteran.
Walton’s companion along his journey has been his son Paul.
“To make up for that one regret he’s always talked about all of his life … we decided two years ago when he turned 99 that we would make up for that one regret … and draw the attention to the dwindling number of World War II veterans still alive,” Paul said. “He’s still got that fighting spirit.”
Walton is one of a select group of centenarians still putting up the good fight at making his dreams come true.
In 2019, there were about 500,000 WWII vets still living, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
An estimated 340 veterans from the Greatest Generation die every day, according to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“I am really proud of my father,” Paul Walton said. “Growing up, everyone had a father who was a World War II veteran. But low and behold at my age, 64, I would have one of the last World War II veterans still living. You might not call yourself a hero dad,” he told his father, “but I call you a hero and most Americans will call you a hero as well.”
Born on Manhattan’s heavily Jewish Lower East Side, Walton entered the United States Army nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the “date that will live in infamy” that brought the United States into World War II.
He served throughout the entire war, rising to the rank of corporal before returning home in 1946.
Walton joined the Army to fight Hitler. He said that he had hated that man so much he would have given anything to defeat his armies in combat. However, that was not his destiny.
Prior to shipping out to Europe to ultimately fight in what would become the Battle of the Bulge, Walton stepped in a fox hole and broke his ankle. The members of his unit left without him, and Walton never heard from them again.
After he recovered, Walton was sent to India.
He served with distinction with the 34th Infantry, 8th Division. Walton served as a medic, one of the most dangerous jobs during the war.
In the American army, a battalion of 400-500 soldiers typically would have about 30 medics; however, while in combat, their lifespan was measured in minutes, making that number much smaller following each engagement.
Ben Major with the World War II U.S. Medical Research Centre said though medical personnel statistics are available for many theaters of war reaching back to the Civil War, there is a void of data for servicemen and women who served in the Pacific (1941-1945).
“I’m afraid that we do not have information available, unlike in the European Theater,” Major said. “Such studies were never undertaken in the Pacific Theater by the Medical Department.”
According to the Research Centre, as a point of reference, medical personnel who served in Europe, including doctors, nurses, medics, corpsmen, orderlies and others, suffered more than 550,000 battlefield casualties during World War II.
By-the-Numbers in Europe
- Killed in action: 98,812
- Wounded: 373,018
- Died of wounds: 15,140
- Prisoners of war: 24,783
- Missing in action: 42,278
Slightly more than 75% of all casualties were assigned to Army infantry units.
Although considered noncombatants, typically not carrying weapons except for pistols in some cases that were used for personal protection, medics were theoretically protected by the Geneva Convention; however, the large red cross on their helmets made a convenient target regardless of their combat status.
Japan did not sign the Geneva Convention and disregarded the protection it afforded. Army medics and Navy corpsmen were deliberately targeted by Japanese troops.
American medical crews quickly learned to smear mud over the red and white symbol on their helmets to prevent themselves from being more of a target than they already were.
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