Brookline War Memorial
Walter F. Meisner

Messman Walter F. Meisner
United States Merchant Marine (1942-1943)

United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

Walter Francis Meisner was born on December 3, 1920, to Ellen J. and Joseph A. Meisner. He had four brothers (Joseph Jr, Bernard, James and Thomas) and two sisters (Mary and Margaret). For many years the family lived at 1069 Norwich Avenue, then moved to 518 Berwin Avenue in August 1941.

Children sledding on Norwich Street - 1934.
Walter Meisner (2nd row far right) and friends sledding along Norwich Avenue in 1934.

The Pittsburgh Press, on March 12, 1934, published a photo of 13-year old Walter and several friends sled riding along Norwich Avenue. A hit and run driver injured three of the boys, including Walter, who was treated for minor injuries on site by a nearby physician.

Walter attended Resurrection Elementary and graduated from South Hills High School in the Class of 1938, where his senior yearbook predicted that he would someday be "flying high as American Airline's crack pilot." His graduation class photo is shown below.

Walter F. Meisner

Shortly after war was declared, on February 16, 1942, Walter registered with the Selective Service at Local Board No. 30 on Brookline Boulevard. At that time he was employed as a typist by Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation in Homestead PA.

Brothers Joseph, Bernard and Thomas joined the U.S. Army, and James entered the U.S. Navy. Walter first applied for enlistment in the Army, and then the Navy, but was not accepted due to a hearing impairment in one ear caused by childhood scarlet fever.

Determined to serve his country in some capacity, Walter enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marine on October 13, 1942. He was sent to New York City for three months of indoctrination at the U.S. Maritime Training Station at Hoffman Island. Walter F. Meisner officially became a Merchant seaman on he 23rd of December.

A month later, on January 25, 1943, after completion of the basic courses, Walter was assigned to the Liberty Ship SS Meriwether Lewis of the privately-owned American Mail Line as a Messman. The average pay for a merchant mariner was $200/month.

Liberty Ship
A United States Liberty Ship similar to the SS Meriwether Lewis.

In the Merchant Marine, the messman is considered the "all-around man." He may perform any of the following duties: setting tables, serving food or waiting on tables. Part of his job is also to clean the dishes and equipment, prepare coffee and beverages, make beds and clean quarters of officers. He is used wherever the chief steward wants him.

The SS Meriwether Lewis left New York on February 7, 1943, loaded with ammunition and tires. It was Messman Walter F. Meisner's first voyage. The Liberty Ship joined Convoy HX-227 on February 18. The convoy consisted of seventy ships plus destroyer escorts bound for the United Kingdom.

While about 210 miles south of Iceland in the North Atlantic, on March 2, 1943, the SS Meriwether Lewis fell back from the main body of the convoy. She was promptly attacked by German submarine U-759, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Rudolf Friedrich.

The attack was unsuccessful and the U-boat was forced to retire due to mechanical difficulties. However, the straggling freighter was in a vulnerable position and the wolves were closing in. German submarine U-634, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Günther Brosin, was summoned to the scene.

Sinking ship in the crosshairs of a German periscope.

The ship was disabled by one of four torpedoes fired at 06:43 hours. Two more torpedoes, one at 07:52 hours and another at 09:05 hours finished off the doomed Liberty Ship. The second torpedo caused a massive detonation in the cargo hold when the ammunition ignited.

The ship broke in two and sank bow first. The crew aboard the SS Meriwether Lewis included forty-four merchant sailors and a twenty-five man Naval Armed Guard. Despite a two-day search by Coast Guard Cutter Ingham (WPG-35), no survivors were found. Only a thirty mile long trail of automobile tires was sighted.

Messman Walter F. Meisner was originally listed as Missing In Action in the Pittsburgh Press on April 18, 1943. Later, in 1945, his status was changed to Killed In Action (Lost At Sea). A Gold Star soon appeared along with the other four Blue Service Stars on the window of the Meisner family residence at 518 Berwin Avenue.

Walter F. Meisner's awards and decorations include the Honorable Service Button, Merchant Marine Emblem, World War II Victory Medal, Merchant Marine Mariner's Medal (shown below) and the Atlantic War Zone Medal.

Merchant Marine Mariners Medal

Throughout the war, the valuable and often valiant service of the American Merchant Marine has long been recognized. General Douglas MacArthur said, "I hold no branch in higher esteem than the Merchant Marine service."

During World War II, 3.1 million tons of merchant ships were lost to enemy activity. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 26, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service. All told, 733 American cargo ships were lost and 8,651 of the 215,000 mariners who served perished in troubled waters and off enemy shores.

Like so many other merchant seamen whose bodies were lost at sea, there is no gravesite or mention on the hallowed Tablets of the Missing for men like Brookline's Walter Francis Meisner. Patricia O'Neal wrote, "Their graves are marked only by the waves of the ocean. We miss them, we respect them and we shall never forget them."

Walter F. Meisner
Photo of Walter Meisner taken at Kaufmann's
Arcadia Portrait Studio shortly before
leaving for New York City.

Veterans Status For The Merchant Marine

Despite the essential role played by the mariners of the Merchant Marine during the war, and the many hardships endured while sailing through the hostile waters of the combat zones, these brave men were not given veterans status in the eyes of our military establishment.

The GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977, approved November 23, 1977, granted veteran status to Women Airforce Service Pilots and "any person in any other similarly situated group" with jurisdiction for determination given to the Secretary of Defense, who delegated that determination to the Secretary of the Air Force.

Although the Merchant Marine suffered a per capita casualty rate greater than those of the U.S. Armed Forces, merchant mariners who served in World War II were still denied such veterans recognition until 1988, when a federal court ordered it. The Court held that "the Secretary of the Air Force abused its discretion in denying active military service recognition to American merchant seamen who participated in World War II."

For the first time, Merchant mariners such as Brookline's Walter Francis Meisner were officially given their long overdue recognition and properly honored for their many sacrifices made in the cause of freedom and liberty.

Mrs. Ellen Meisner and photos of her sons - 1944
Registering the fighting sons of Mrs. Ellen J. Meisner, right, is Mrs. Thomas Lamb, the local
air raid warden. Left to right: Bernard, James, Walter, Joseph Jr and Thomas.
This photo appeared in the June 14, 1944, Pittsburgh Press.

Walter's mother Ellen J. Meisner passed away on July 4, 1961, and his father, Joseph A. Meisner Sr, died on October 26, 1967. Unfortunately, neither parent lived to see their son rightfully honored alongside his four brothers as a recognized veteran of the World War.

Never-the-less, in their hearts and the hearts of everyone who knew him, Walter was always a war hero and one of America's fighting men. Both Ellen and Joseph are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lawrenceville.

Thanks to David Meisner, nephew of Walter Meisner, for providing this information and the service photo.

* Written by Clint Burton: February 7, 2019 *




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)
United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)  United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, David P.
Mayville Avenue
Army

Details

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Details

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

Details

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm, William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Bracey, Bruce H.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Details


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army

Details


Capogreca, James J.
Merrick Avenue
Navy

Details


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy

Details


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy

Details


Doyle, Joseph F Jr.
Eben Street
Navy

Details


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Gmuca, Joseph J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Heil, Robert F.
Bayridge Avenue
Army

Details


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army

Details


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Ketters, Robert C.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army

Details


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army

Details


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army

Details


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army

Details


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy

Details


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army

Details


Meisner, Walter F.
Berwin Avenue
Merchant Marine

Details


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army

Details


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy

Details


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Ruane, Roy J.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Details


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army

Details


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC

Details


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army

Details


Tobin, Paul M.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army

Details


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

Details


WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>