Walter G. Wirsching, Career military man

September 30, 1990

Services for Walter G. Wirsching, a career soldier who served in three wars and then fought a lengthy and vigorous campaign against cancer, will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Fort Myer Chapel at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mr. Wirsching died Thursday at his home in Severna Park. He was 64.

Born in Baltimore, the child of German immigrants, Mr. Wirsching enlisted in the Army before completing his high school education.

In a career with military intelligence units that spanned 30 years, he saw service in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, with the infantry in Korea and on assignment in Vietnam. By the time he retired in 1974 with the rank of command sergeant major, his decorations included a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and the Legion of Merit.

Mr. Wirsching was never wounded but his feet were frozen at the Battle of the Bulge, and he had recurring problems with them later.

Mr. Wirsching completed his high school education while in the military. He went on to earn two bachelor's degrees, after his retirement, from the University of Baltimore and the State University of New York.

After a couple of years in retirement, he began a new career with the Department of Defense. His job, which was connected with intelligence operations, took him on several tours of duty overseas, including a posting to West Berlin. He worked for the department for 12 years before he was forced to retire again, this time because of illness about two years ago. His last assignment was to Fort Meade.

Mr. Wirsching took the news of his illness with characteristic combativeness. His eldest son, Walter G. R. Wirsching, remembers his father as a man who always had goals -- and he set himself the goal of living until 2000.

In an interview for a front-page article on coping with terminal illness that appeared in The Sun in January, Mr. Wirsching, who had cancerous tumors on his liver, talked about how he saw himself conquering his illness.

"Sometimes I visualize myself disintegrating, blasting those tumors mentally with thought rays and causing them to shrink," he said.

"I have some very vicious thoughts about it, murderous thoughts. I'm going to kill that growth in my body. I'm not going to let it grow or kill me. I'm going to fight it."

Mr. Wirsching belonged to the Germania Lodge of the Masons and the Boumi Temple.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, the former Margarete J. Specht; a sister, Ruth Friedrich of Ellicott City; three sons, Walter G. R. Wirsching of Baltimore, Martin A. J. Wirsching and Fred D. W. Wirsching, both of Linthicum; three grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

The family suggested memorial contributions be made to the Arundel Hospice, 403 Headquarters Drive, Millersville, Md. 21108, or to the American Cancer Society.

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