NFL: Brainerd's Straka honored at Vikings game
Brainerd native Walt Straka, a 99-year-old World War II veteran, a prisoner of war, and the only surviving Minnesotan from the Bataan Death March, was honored during the Minnesota Vikings home game against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Sunday, Nov. 4.
Straka was among a group of 64 soldiers who made up Brainerd's A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. As a POW, Straka labored at a steel mill in Kokura, Japan, and narrowly avoided being hit by an atomic bomb before the target was switched to Nagasaki, Japan, because of heavy cloud cover.
Straka received a large ovation from the U.S. Bank crowd after his military story was presented on the stadium scoreboard during a break in the game.
The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer of almost 80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war in the Philippines by the Imperial Japanese Army.
Each November, the Vikings and other NFL teams honor servicemen and women with the Salute to Service campaign.