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First Name: Walter

Last Name: Menchuk

Birthplace: Lower Saucon, Northampton, PA, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: NY
Middle Name: Michael

Date of Birth: 09 June 1917

Date of Death: 15 December 1945 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 27 February 1942

Rank or Rate: Ensign

Years Served: 1941-1945

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Walter Michael Menchuk

Ensign, United States Naval Reserve

Purple Heart

Walter was the son of Michael and Eugenia "Jennie" Poklitar Menchuk immigrants from Austria who married in Manhattan, NY, NY on 21 Jan 1913. His siblings were Olga, Rose, and Michael.

Walter was an honor student and graduate of the Brooklyn Technical high school. He graduated on 08 Jun 1939 from Pratt Institute School of Science and Technology in Brooklyn, NY Industrial Engineering class. Walter registered for the WWII draft on 16 Oct 1941. He gave his address in Jamaica, Queens, NY. However, he was employed by the University of California, Los Angeles, CA.

Walter enlisted in the US Naval Reserve (USNR) on 26 May 1941 and was commissioned 13 Jun 1941 as an Ensign, A-V(S); commissioned aviation officer qualified for specialist or ground duties. His date of rank was 26 May 1941. Ens. Menchuk was assigned to the aircraft tender USS Langley (AV-3) an unit of the US Asiatic Fleet later that year.

At the outbreak of WWII, Langley lay off Cavite, Philippine Islands. After learning of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, Langley quickly got underway on 8 December and steamed to Balikpapan, Borneo, and Darwin, Australia arriving on New Year's Day 1942. A few weeks later she joined the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDACOM) forces assembled in Indonesia in response to anticipated Japanese advances in that area. Langley steamed from Fremantle, Australia on 22 Feb in a convoy that left five days later to deliver 32 P-40 aircraft and 33 Army Air Corps (AAC) pilots and 12 aircrew to Tjilatjap harbor on the southern coast of Java, Dutch East Indies.

The morning of 27 Feb 1942 dawned clear with light seas. Langley was nearing Tjilatjap some 100 miles distant, having been recently joined by her antisubmarine screen comprised of destroyers Whipple (DD-217) and Edsall (DD-219). However, about 0900, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft spotted the three vessels and a short time later relayed the contact information to his base. At 1140, nine "Betty" twin-engine enemy bombers attacked Langley.

The first and second Japanese strikes were unsuccessful, however, during the third attack Langley took five hits. Her engine room quickly flooded; steering was impaired, and the ship took a 10° list to port. Langley went dead in the water. At 1332, the order to abandon ship was passed. To prevent Langley's capture the escorting destroyers fired nine 4-inch shells and two torpedoes into the Langley to insure her sinking. She went down (although neither of the destroyers actually saw her sink) about 75 miles south of Tjilatjap with a loss of 16. The survivors including the 33 AAC pilots and 12 aircrew were rescued by the destroyers Whipple and Edsall. Early the following morning, the Langley survivors transferred to the fleet oiler, USS Pecos (AO-6), and all AAC personnel transferred to Edsall. Pecos was attacked and sunk on 01 Mar 1942 while steaming to Australia, with the loss of many lives. Later the same day, Edsall, was also attacked and sunk with the loss of her crew and all the Army pilots. Several decades later historians learned that an unknown number of Edsall’s crew were rescued by the Japanese and later executed.

Walter was killed in action during the sinking of the Langley on 27 Feb 1942 in the Indian Ocean by enemy Japanese aircraft. His remains were unrecoverable. He was listed as missing in action on 01 Mar 1942 and presumed dead on 25 Dec 1945. Awarded posthumously the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one battle star, American Defense Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and he may be eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive 07 Dec 1941).


Honor Scroll

His family also received a scroll from President Harry S. Truman in commemoration of Ensign Menchuk. The citation reads: In grateful memory of Walter Michael Menchuk who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED U.S.S. LANGLEY, 25 December 1945 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Harry S. Truman,

President of the United States

[Bio #184 compiled by Gerry Lawton (G47/GML470)]

Find A Grave Memorial #56752861

Honoree ID: 151592   Created by: MHOH




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