Bob Walter relates 'largest jeep accident of World War II'
To the Editor:
I have been surprised to receive letters and calls from former members of the 99th and at the present time am waiting for the time and date of my interview with the History Channel. You and I both know that anyone who served with the 99th could write a book of our experiences.
There is one story I would like to share with you before I write of my life after Army.
As we were preparing to go on attack in late January, they assigned me a lieutenant (something I never had before or during the Bulge). On Feb. 11, 1945, we led a larger patrol deep into German territory and as we returned to the front lines under cover of darkness a jeep was sent to meet us and take us back to be debriefed.
It was my opinion that one jeep was not enough for all the men an I suggested to the lieutenant that he take half the men back and then send another jeep for the rest of the patrol. The lieutenant (name unknown) ordered all of us onto the one jeep. He sat on the right front fender and I sat on the left front fender. I believe some of the men were hanging on by fingernails.
After loading we started back but didn't go far when we hit another jeep head on. I felt the original impact then when I came to, I was laying head first on the other jeep and both legs were pinned between the two jeeps. I firmly believe that was probably the largest jeep accident of World War II. I'm sure we were on the International Highway. I never did find out how any of the men were injured but did know the lieutenant flew over the other jeep and had at least a broken shoulder. I saw him for a minute at the battalion aid station.
They kept me at the aid station that night then took me to a hospital train and I was in Paris on Feb. 4. The next ay I was flown to an England hospital where I remained till May 16, 1945, then took a hospital ship and landed at Charleston SC, on June 2, 1945. From there I was flown to Wakeman Convalescent Hospital at Camp Atterbury IN. Through all the moves I was considered a litter patient even though I could move pretty well on crutches. Most of the litter bearers were German prisoners.
Something interesting happened while on the hospital ship. One afternoon our nurse informed us they wee going to show a movie in the officers' ward and if we could get there without help we could take in the movie. As previously mentioned, I was moving pretty well, so I hopped over and just as I was bout to sit on the edge of an officer's bed the officer said, "Sgt. Walter, welcome." I turned and recognized that officer as the 393rd motor pool officer, Lt. Metz. Needless to say we didn't see much of the movie as we ha more important things to do — talk, talk, talk.
I was discharged Sept. 18, 1945, from the hospital and Army.
The following Sunday, while at a square dance, I met a girl who would become my wife of 54 years. She died in 2000.
On Oct. 1, 1945, I joined the Fostoria Police Department (Fostoria's population was 16,500) and worked as a patrolman for five years then tested and was appointed captain in 1950. After two more years it became apparent that it was nearly impossible to raise a family on my salary so I resigned and took a machine and repairman job at an Ex-Cell-O plant that had just started a new plant.
While a member of the police department, the size of the city made it necessary to investigate everything from a traffic accident to a murder. In the second year on the force I was elected president of the FOP (fraternal order of police) and held that position until my resignation in 1952. Also while on the police department it became apparent to me that someone should find something for the boys to do when they weren't in school. With the help of businesses and concerned parents, I was able to established two boys' clubs within the city. I also worked with the local radio station, broadcasting basketball games. I had my own softball team which I coached and played. I coached minor league baseball for anyone 12-18 years of age. This ball playing was a carryover from coaching before I entered the Army. I coached and played on the 393rd team and we won the division championship in 1944 while at Camp Maxey. I played basketball with the 393rd and I don't think we did too good. I was president of six organizations at one time. I'm not bragging, just thinking how stupid I was.
When I started working at Ex-Cell-O they had just voted in the U.A.W. as bargaining agent for the employees and I was appointed a member of the bargaining committee. Shortly after the first contract there were elections and I was voted in as president, a job I held for 15 years. During my 33 years working, I became involved in too many outside activities. I was elected president of all unions in Ex-Cell-O corporation in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. I negotiated many contracts.
From 1945 to 1984, when I retired, some of my other activities included continuing coaching and playing softball until age 45 when I became too old to play, but still coached both softball and junior league baseball. Had several championships in both. I was appointed a court probation officer, was a board member and helped start the first United Way in our town. I served as a board member for 15 years and was elected the only three-time president the board has ever had. In 1959, I ran for state representative of Seneca County. I won the primary but lost the general election by 100 votes. That was enough politics for me.
Other activities included board member and three-time president of our school PTA. I also started an athletic booster organization and became president for a few years. Our school did not have a football team at that time but the students wanted football, so during my tenure I was able to meet with the school board and after approximately one year, the board agreed to start football. It took a few years, but this year the team came within one game of playing for the state championship. It looks good for next year.
I married my wife in 1946, and we raised a son and daughter and six grandchildren and now have three great-granddaughters. I retired in 1984, at age 62 to take care of my sick wife rather than put her in a home. This became a 24/7 job. She died in 2000. During those 16 years I was no longer involved in other activities. I'm not complaining, just stating facts.
As for my health, I had colon cancer in 1987. I had surgery and am still clean. In 1990, I as operated on for an aorta aneurism and that is OK. As of this date my doctor says everything looks good, so at the age of 83 years, I still play nine holes of golf everyday the temperature is above 40 degrees.
My hobbies have always included children, sports of all kind, and gardening.
One of my most satisfying endeavors has been speaking to students about the Battle of the Bulge. I was interviewed by a Bowling Green University student who was working on his thesis and a high school student from another school district. He called to say he got an "A" in history because of our interview. I gave a talk at a local sixth grade class and it appeared to me that a couple of the boys were sleeping but a week later I received a thank you note from every student in that class and based on their notes, every student was locked into every word I said.
Just yesterday I received a call from the History Channel. They are setting up a date and time to interview me. They wanted me to fly all expenses paid to California but I turned that down and am going to Columbus OH.
938 Loudon Dr.
Fostoria OH 44830
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sgt. Walter was wounded twice during his combat tour. On Dec. 25, shrapnel from a tree burst tore up the back of his right hand, and a jeep collision Feb. 11, 1945, took him out of action permanently. Neither injury resulted in a Purple Heart, the first because it wasn't recorded by the field hospital that treated him and the second because it was considered non-battle related.