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Walt Schmisseur

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1921 Belleville, IL
Date and Place of Death:    February 19, 1945 near Chichi Jima, Bonin Islands
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Catcher
Rank: Ensign
Military Unit: VBF-9, US Navy
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Uncle Sam will get Walt Schmisseur before the war reaches a climax but meanwhile he hopes to do a lot of catching for the Olean Oilers.
Olean Times-Herald May 29, 1942

Walter J. Schmisseur, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Schmisseur, was born in Belleville, Illinois, and won letters in baseball, football and track at Belleville Township High School. He went on to play two years of varsity baseball at Milliken University, where he also enlisted in the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Course. Schmisseur later worked as a plumber and a farm hand, and in 1941 he hit .300 with the Belleville Stags semi-pro team.

He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization in 1942, and joined the Olean Oilers of the Class D PONY League. "Uncle Sam will get Walt Schmisseur before the war reaches a climax," announced the Olean Times-Herald in May 1942, "but meanwhile he hopes to do a lot of catching for the Olean Oilers."

Schmisseur quickly earned the starting spot behind the plate with the Oilers and regularly demonstrated an uncanny ability for hitting in the clutch. The likeable catcher also became a local hero following the Olean flood of July 18. The Allegheny River flooded the town and War Veterans' Park was under seven feet of water. Two men were in a boat that capsized in the park, and Schmisseur risked his own life to swim out to the boat in a desperate attempt to save them. Unfortunately, both men drowned, as did a six-yearold boy, who was swept away when his mother's car plunged into swollen Haskell Creek.

In 77 games with the Oilers, Schmisseur batted .278 with 51 RBIs, and was an allstar selection. The Oilers' fans were sorry to see him leave when the Brooklyn organization sent the 21-year-old to the Dayton Ducks of the Class C Middle Atlantic League on August 8.

Schmisseur entered military service with the Navy after the 1942 season. He trained as a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific with Bombing Fighting Squadron VBF-9 on the USS Lexington (CV-16). On February 19, 1945, Ensign Schmisseur took off in a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat on a mission over Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands, supporting assaulting troops landing at Iwo Jima. He was forced to bail out when his plane was badly damaged by enemy anti-aircraft fire, and reported missing in action. "He was seen landing in the water," explained a message to his parents, "and when last seen was in an inflated life raft. He later disappeared from sight of rescue planes circling the area, and no later trace having been found, his death must be assumed."

Schmisseur's body was never recovered and on April 5, 1946, the young athlete was officially declared dead by the Navy Department.

Walt Schmisseur was awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart, and is remembered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

 

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1942 Olean PONY D 77 255 51 71 16 6 1 51 .278
1942 Dayton Mid-Atlantic C - - - - - - - - -

 

Hellcat

The Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat. The type Ensign Schmisseur was flying when badly damaged by enemy anti-aircraft fire over Chichi Jima in the Bonin Islands

Source
Olean Times-Herald, May 29, 1942
Belleville Daily Advocate, April 5, 1946

Thanks to Lou Ann James, archivist at Belleville Public Library for help with this biography. Thanks also to Astrid van Erp, for help with photos for this biography.

Date Added February 19, 2012 Updated July 30, 2017

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