Walter L. Wallace, Sr.,'s Story
The European theater of the Second World War officially began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, Germany invaded, conquered, and occupied France in six weeks. On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in what was to be the largest land battle in world history. The United States, under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, joined the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Later in 1943 as the tide of war turned, Germany suffered major defeats on the Eastern Front at the Battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. Allied leaders, particularly General Secretary Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, demanded that a second front be opened in France to squeeze Germany from both the east and the west.
As contemplated and agreed upon, the Normandy landings, or D-Day, in France were intended to liberate Northwest Europe from German occupation and open a second front. It was the largest amphibious invasion of a hostile country in history. In fact, D-Day was one of the most impactful military campaigns ever in human history. It consisted of two logistical components: Operation Neptune (Navy) and Operation Overlord (Army).
The first naval action of D-Day involved deploying minesweepers to clear mines off the Normandy coast. Minesweepers were ocean-going, wooden-hulled ships operated by thirty-five crew members and four officers. Minesweeping operations began on the evening of June 5, 1944, and continued into the early-morning hours of June 6, 1944. American and British minesweepers served as the tip of the spear for the initial landing operation. Specifically, these ships were entrusted with performing the delicate and dangerous task of clearing German mines from the coast of Normandy for bombardment ships and troop carriers transporting American, Canadian, and British soldiers ashore. These efforts were undertaken in darkness, while under fire from German artillery on shore, and with Allied bombers flying overhead.
Three of the Commanding Officers of the YMS Class Minesweepers were 1939 and 1940 graduates of Mississippi State University. The three officers were George Hammer of Waveland, Kenny Wise (also known as K.O.) of Jonestown, and Walter L. Wallace, Sr., of Kosciusko. All were native Mississippians.
Commanding Officer Wallace, Sr., commanded minesweeper USS YMS-247 and was in the Special Sweeping Group to provide security for the heavy cruiser, USS Augusta.
The USS Augusta transported General Omar Bradley, the overall commander of Operation Overlord, and other senior commanders of the U.S. Navy and Army. USS YMS-247 was awarded two Battle Stars that recognized its participation in naval battles. The Quartermaster of USS YMS-247 stated that the minesweeper destroyed thirty-eight mines, which was thought to be a world record by a single minesweeper.
Wallace, Sr., graduated from Kosciusko High School before enrolling at Mississippi State University. At MSU, he majored in Business and played the trombone in the Famous Maroon Band.
During the Korean War, Wallace, Sr., served as Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy Reserve Training Center in Norman, Oklahoma. After approximately two years, he transitioned from this duty and served as the Commanding Officer for the Naval Reserve Training Center once located on Graymont Avenue in Birmingham, Alabama. Wallace, Sr., worked in senior management positions for Tennessee Coal and Iron Company (TCI), later to be known as U.S. Steel, from 1939 to retirement in 1975 in both Birmingham, Alabama, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Exhibit Text by Dr. Stephen L. Wallace, Walter L. Wallace, Jr., and Judge Stephen C. Wallace.