Walter L. Hankla, Jr., served in the European Theater of Operations from June 1942-June 1945, with the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion (The "Geromimos"), the most combat-seasoned independent airborne unit of World War II. Staff Sergeant Hankla, a Supply NCO, participated in Operation Torch (French North Africa, 1942), Operation Dragoon (Southern France, 1944), and the Battle of the Bulge, earning campaign stars for the Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Fogia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns. During the December 1944-January 1945 Battle of the Bulge, he participated in the battalion's counterattack against German forces and was among approximately 50 battalion survivors who were assigned as replacements with the 82nd Airborne Division when the 509th PIB was pulled out of the line at the end of January 1945 near Sankt Vith, Belgium. SSG Hankla was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, the American Defense Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver service star and three bronze stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Expert (Bayonet), Sharpshooter (Rifle and Automatic Rifle), Glider, and Parachutist badges. He was discharged in June 1945.