Walter Pike wanted to serve in World War II as a Navy pilot, joining the Naval Flight Program. His mother, however, had plans of her own. She persuaded him to join the Army instead. With hope that the war would soon be over, she spoke with the Pasco County draft chairman, who promised to delay Pike’s draft into the Army for one year.
However, the Army drafted Pike in 1944 and sent him to Fort McPherson, Georgia, for basic training. Upon completing his training, Pike joined the 3rd Infantry Division and deployed to France to aid in the effort there. While in France, his unit engaged in heavy combat. Out of 135 men in the unit, only 27 either survived the war or were not wounded and sent home. Pike survived the war without any serious injuries.
Pike decided to remain in the military after the war ended. He eventually transferred into the Air Force. Pike worked as a mechanic on tanker aircraft. Pike later worked with the Minutemen Missile Program at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. These nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles served as a deterrent and response to the Soviet Union’s ICBM program and hydrogen bomb testing.
By the time of his retirement, Pike was a master sergeant. Throughout his service in the military, Pike received an Army Good Conduct Medal, a European Campaign Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and an Army of Occupation Medal. Pike was also awarded two Purple Hearts which he did not accept, stating that “only a fool fights for medals; you fight to keep yourself alive and you fight to keep the men in your squad alive.”
Pike passed away in his home in Tampa, Florida, in 2002.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.