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World War II veteran dies
I-Decorate WWII Walter Victor pic
Walter Victor, one of Dawson County's most decorated World War II heroes, died last week at the age of 97. - photo by File photo

One of Dawson County's most decorated World War II heroes died last week at the age of 97.

Born July 1, 1917, Walter John Victor spent 33 months in combat and fought on the front lines in campaigns including the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944.

He died Oct. 14 after a short hospitalization.

For his service in the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Division, he was awarded four Bronze Stars, eight Combat Stars and a distinguished service award.

Nearly eight decades later, he was also presented with the Legion of Honor medal by the French government in recognition of his "noble contribution...and in remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives for the cause."

"It's been a long time since Normandy, but it means a lot to me that they're doing this," he said days before traveling to Atlanta to receive the accolade. "They still remember."

Victor was in high school when he was pulled out to go to work in the coal mines, he said in a 2006 interview.

A year later with only a quarter in his pocket, he put on a second pair of pants and hitchhiked from his native Pennsylvania to New York and joined the Army.
"I thought to myself: ‘There is a better life to live that coming home from the coal mines,'" he said.

Injured in combat, Victor walked with a slow gait from the shrapnel in his leg, which he called a constant reminder of "how very dangerous war can be."

"It was rough. People don't realize what we'd been though," he said. "I'm proud to have served this country. It's a great country, and it was worth it being on the front lines."

While he could often be seen wearing his signature 9th Infantry jacket emblazed with a legion of tour cities on the back, Victor may be better known for the legacy he created when he arrived back home in the states.

Beginning in 1966, Victor served as the official photographer for the Atlanta Braves, having taken nearly 20,000 photographs chronicling "America's team."

With 14 of his shots on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Braves also enshrined the first-base camera well in his honor in 2006.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of Walter's passing," the Braves said in a statement. "He was a part of our organization and Braves Country for 40 years and he will be sadly missed. He was a proud veteran who served his country with great honor. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife Ruth and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Survivors include his wife of 72 years, Ruth Victor of Dawsonville; sons, Tony Van and Lynn Victor of Hogansville, Tommy and Mary Victor of McDonough; daughter, Ann Margaret and David Johnston of Gainesville; daughter-in-law, Bobbi Victor of Smyrna; brother, Frank Victor of Waterbury, Conn.; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Oct. 17 in the chapel of McDonald and Son Funeral Home. Interment will follow at a later date at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.