When Walter Karr Bolling Jr. graduated from Prestonsburg High School, the class gave him a fountain pen “to sign a peace treaty with Hitler, his life-long ambition.” That was in 1939.
He became the first man from Floyd County in east-central Kentucky to die in the war when he was killed Dec. 7, 1941, in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a fireman third class on the U.S.S. Arizona.
His father, also named Walter Karr, served as a watertender on a troop transport in World War I. He made 18 cross-Atlantic trips. Walter Sr., a miner and then a mechanic, died in July 1934.
After his death, times were hard for his widow, Frances, and their six children. She worked 40 weeks in 1939 for $352 as a cutter at an National Youth Association training center — a Depression-era federal jobs program. Walter Jr. worked four weeks that year as a messenger for a gasoline distributor and earned $10. None of the other children, ranging in age from 8 to 22, was employed in 1939.
Walter Jr. worked in 1940 for a lumber company and enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 15, 1940.
The VFW post in Prestonsburg is named for Mr. Bolling Jr., who was born March 3, 1922. In 2016 the post started construction on the Walter Karr Bowling Veterans Emergency Housing Center to help homeless vets and those who lost homes in fire and other disasters.
Note: Navy records and the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor show Walter’s last name as Bolling. But his obituary and the VFW post spell it Bowling.
Sources: Floyd County Times; VFW post; Census; Navy muster rolls; U.S. Headstone Application for Military Veteran. Naval History and Heritage Command photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.