S/Sgt. Charles H. Walter
455th Bomb Squadron
323rd Bomb Group, 9th Air Force
U.S. Army Air Force
age twenty, Charles “Chuck” Walter became a member of the U.S. Army Air
Corps. He would spend most of the war in a B-26 Marauder as an Armor Gunner
attached to the 9th Air Force’s 323rd Bomb Group
with the 455th Bombardment Squadron.
Marauder was a fairly new plane to the Air Force. Ordered as a
“twin-engine bomber with great emphasis placed on speed, range and
operational altitude,” it was manufactured by the Martin Company. 5,157
planes would be used in the war efforts, including one flown by Jimmy
Doolittle in North Africa to prove: “It’s just another airplane. Let’s
start it up and play with it.”
The 323rd was first assigned to the 8th Air Force, then transferred to the
9th in October of 1943. In
July of 1943 the group began attacking marshalling yards, airdromes,
industrial plants, military installations and other targets in France,
Belgium and Holland. It then undertook numerous attacks on V-weapon sites
along the French coast and attacked airfields, and Leeuwarden and Venlo as
part of the Allied campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft
industry from 20-25th February 1944. The 323rd helped
prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing coastal batteries on June
6th 1944 and participated in the aerial barrage that assisted the
breakthrough at St. Lo in July. It began flying night missions at about that
time and eliminated strong points at Brest early in September, then shifted
to eastern France to support advances against the Siegfried Line. It
received commendations for action 24-27th December 1944 during
the Battle of the Bulge for hitting transportation installations used by the
Germans to bring reinforcements to the Ardennes. It was on a mission on
Valentine’s Day in 1945 that the B-26 in which Chuck Walter flew was shot
down. A photo of it, engine on fire, appeared in a service publication that
claimed the plane had recovered, when indeed it had gone down.
first POW camp where Walter was held was a very small one near Wuerzburg;
after a short time there he was transferred to the Nuremberg camp, which was
actually four camps in one. It had originally been built to house Nazi
gatherings and Nazi Youth Corps. At this time, the Germans were evacuating
other camps near the advancing Allied troops so that the population of this
camp swelled to 29,550. One official report stated, “The camp was in
terrible condition when the Americans arrived. Sanitation was almost
non-existent. Everything was infested with lice, fleas and bed bugs. Men
slept on the bare floors – each had two filthy German blankets. The
barracks were not heated. Latrines were inadequate. Showers were available
once every two weeks.”
early April the Americans were evacuated again, this time to the camp at
Moosburg, which they reached on April 20th after a forced march.
On this “walk” the POWs slept on the ground, had little food and were
strafed by Allied planes on three separate occasions, when three were killed
and many wounded.
anything, conditions at Moosburg were worse that at
Nuernberg. What had been a reasonably well-organized combination
transit and permanent Stalag was at the end of the war a crowded collection
of “snow-thatched, vermin-ridden hovels.” In the days the American POWs
were there, nearly continual bombing was going on nearby, but the attackers
avoided the camp, clearly aware that prisoners were being held there.
April 29th, Moosburg was liberated by Patton’s 14th
armored division, and on May 1st Patton himself visited the POWs.
his service to his country, Chuck Walter was awarded a Purple Heart, an air
medal with four clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign
European-African-Middle East Medal, a Victory Medal, a POW Medal and a Group
Citation for contributions in the Battle of the Bulge.
S/Sgt. Charles H. Walter
U.S. Army Air Corp
9th Air Force 323rd Bomb Group 455th
Memories of War: “I’ll Bring Her In”
back from a mission, we were waiting to land but did not know our nose wheel
would not come down. After discovering our problem, we talked to our
Commanding Officer and decided that the crew would stay with the plane. We
circled until our ship was the last plane aloft. We tried to lower the nose
wheel but after opening the hatch, we found the hydraulic line was ruptured
and was spewing fluid all over and inside the cockpit. The windows were
covered and the pilot could not see out.
“Willie” opened the side window and “flew her in.” While in the air,
the crew decided to go to the rear of the plane to keep the weight far back
to help keep the nose of the ship off the ground as long as possible. We
would be landing at 130 miles per hour.
was sitting with my butt behind the bulkhead - my radioman between my legs.
We had hardly touched down when he freed himself and jumped out of the waist
window. The last I saw of him he was rolling down the runway. I thought he
would surely be killed. He survived with not even a broken bone. We landed
with a full bomb load. I had to go back and deactivate the bombs before we
landed. We continued down the runway to the end and nosed it in.
of this was being watched and recorded by Associated Press. The crew was
later interviewed and the following appeared in the Stars & Stripes.
Walter had very little to say about his recent narrow escape when a crippled
bomber came back to the base with the bomb bays still loaded. The bombs had
not been released because of the danger to Allied soldiers near the bomb
target. Sergeant Walter enclosed the following clipping from the Stars
& Stripes the newspaper for men overseas; which gives an account of
the perilous flight: ‘Don’t worry. I’ll bring her in all right,’
Lieutenant Rufus Wilson, 23 year-old Marauder pilot from Corsicana, Tex.,
radioed the control tower as his plane, its nose shell shot away, circled
the field with a full crew and full bomb load.
Wilson R. Wood, of Chico, Tex., group commander, approved the crew’s
decision to stay aboard and suggested that the explosives be left aboard to
hold the tail down. Wilson brought the plane down on its two main wheels and
for two- thirds the length of the runway he kept both the tail and nose off
the ground. Unable to apply the brakes because of the danger of the ship
nosing over, Wilson rode the screeching Marauder off the end of the runway.
The nose dipped and propeller hit turf but the plane didn’t tip over.
members included Lieutenant James Rudig, South Bend, Ind., bombardier; Staff
Sergeant Frank Miller, Atlantic City, N. J., engineer; Sergeant Charles
Walter, Knoxville, Iowa, tail gunner; Lieutenant Louis Carrington, Houston,
Tex., co-pilot, and Sergeant Martin Terrell, Little Rock, Ark., radio
Going to briefing early the 26th.
Weather clear and cold. We had already flown 3 missions in 3 days and this
would be our second of the day. In the briefing room, we were informed of
our second mission of the day. They informed us the target would be heavily
defended with 99 guns. There were 52 ships - 3 boxes of 18. Our flight
failed to release our bombs on the first run so made a second pass. Lt. Fox
and crew were flying Mission Belle on her 149 mission. He was flying on our
left wing when the plane was hit by flak and exploded, going down. No
Lt. Fox was a very good friend of mine. We were also hit and thrown
out of control and out of formation, but my pilot regained control. We
returned to formation and dropped our load on target., On our way back to
the base, I roamed the plane and picked up two handfuls of flak. Luckily, no
one was hit. After landing, I counted the flak holes for a total of 129. For
this mission my pilot, Lt. Wilson, received the Distinguished Flying Cross
and the 323rd Group received the Group Citation.
On his copy of his pilot’s “Flying Cross”
memorandum, Chuck wrote: “At this time of this award, Lt. Wilson was
missing in action. His plane had been shot down in a raid. His crew were
taken prisoners. Lt. Wilson sustained fatal injuries in this crash and died
three days later. The crew remained prisoners until the end of the war. Lt.
Wilson’s body was returned home in 1950.”
VALENTINE DAY MISSION #25
Flight going well until we encountered
heavy flak at about 10:00 A.M. Right engine took heavy hit. We feathered the
prop and dropped out of the formation, as we couldn’t maintain speed and
position. We started back toward our lines, were met with oncoming flak from
the ground. The engine caught fire at about 3500 feet. We did evasive
action, trying to avoid getting hit. I was in the tail telling Willie, my
pilot, where the shell bursts were, and we would turn away. We weren’t hit
again but every time we turned to the dead engine side, we would lose
altitude until we were at about 1200 feet.
My pilot rang the “bail out” button
and the enlisted men bailed out. I was the farthest away in the tail, but
was the second man out. My chute opened and I did one or two swings, being
fired at on the way down, having bullet holes in my chute to prove it. I
landed real hard on my butt, injuring my back. I also sustained burns from
the flames that were coming in the waist window as I bailed out.
The gun crew that was shooting at us
picked me up. Their crew chief was a little 5’5” fellow, but he had a
P38 pistol pointed at me before I could get to my feet. The radioman,
Rouser, was picked up by the regular army and was treated okay. Frank
Miller, our engineer, was picked up by the townspeople and was beaten quite
The first 24 hours were the worst
because we didn’t know if any of the crew had survived. I was put in a
jeep-type vehicle and taken by a private in the German Army to a gathering
point. Our planes, fighters, were circling overhead; and every time my
captor saw a plane, he would stop and run for the ditch, leaving me in the
car. I was sure glad that our fighters didn’t see us. We finally arrived
at the outpost where I was thrown in an upstairs bedroom in an old
farmhouse, scared to death.
During the next twenty-four hours,
planes bombed close enough that as I lay on the floor, I could see the
plaster crack above me. The next day we made the outpost where I was joined
by my engineer and radioman. While we were there, an ambulance arrived. In
it were my pilot, Lt. Rufus Wilson, my co-pilot, 2nd Lt. John Weinstein, and
my bombardier, 2nd Lt. James Rudig. Lt Wilson had a broken neck, dying three
days later. The co-pilot, Weinstein, had broken bones, but Bombardier Rudig
was not injured very much. The three officers had gone down and crash-landed
with the plane. The hydraulic system had been shot out, and the doors of the
plane would not open. The plane was on fire when it landed and was damaged
There was a lot of screaming coming
from within the plane when it landed. The rescuers thought that the enlisted
men had not gotten out of the plane and were trapped inside by the flames.
There may have been some of the enemy on the ground and the plane landed on
or trapped them.
The interrogators took our money,
anything else they wanted, and one dog tag. We were marched to the next
place by one guard—an old soldier in the regular army. As we marched, we
met forced laborers from different countries. They told us (sign language)
that we would be killed.
arrived in one town and went to the railroad station. While we were there, a
group of townspeople gathered and started yelling. A crowd surrounded us,
and we were afraid they were going to hang us. We walked out of the town
with our soldier guard following behind. We finally arrived in Wetzler where
they took all of our Air Force clothing and issued us plain U.S. Army
clothing. Each of us got a long winter coat. We were then sent to Frankfurt
on the Main to be questioned.
I was placed in a very small room and
asked all kinds of questions about the U.S. Air Force. If we refused to
answer questions put to us, the heat was turned up with each refusal. We
were told that they didn’t need our answers—they were just trying to
verify the information they had. They knew everything. They told me where we
were based, the type of plane we flew, the
name of our commanding officer. Since they were getting no answers, they finally gave up and shipped us to Wuerzburg to a camp where we stayed for some time. Wuerzburg was a camp by a small town that held a 20MM gun barrel factory.
Our camp, located on top of a hill, was
divided into two parts. One section was for POWs and the other was for the
German Army troops. They thought it was a safe location for them, but the
British low-level bombers could pinpoint their section and bombed the German
part of the camp without touching our section. Every morning, weather
permitting, our 26s would come in and bomb their factories. All of the
townspeople would race up the hill to our camp for protection.
It was while
we were in this camp that we first saw their jet fighters. We saw one of our
planes attacked and shot down by their jets. Only three of the crew
We arrived in Nuremberg and walked by
the station and on to camp. At one time while we were there, the city was
under siege for an entire day. The British Air Force took over where the
Americans left off and bombed the city the entire night. The next morning
there were a lot of new members in our POW camp—mostly British.
At times the British were firebombing.
During those raids the Germans would attack the British planes in their
night fighters. A direct hit on the incendiary-laden British planes lighted
the skies for miles around.
Our Army was now moving in for the
kill, so the Germans began moving us out of there to keep our troops from
releasing us. There were many thousands of us on the road. The Americans
were first in ranks. The British were next. I don’t recall how the
remaining POW’s were lined up.
We walked seventeen days, arriving at
Moosburg. During the march, we were kept alive by the Red Cross rations that
were passed out to us—one package per three prisoners. The food didn’t
always serve the whole formation. The captors did feed us at times, but the
rations were very poor. But we were hungry so the bugs in the bean soup went
En route we would pass through small
towns. If we spent the night, there was a ring of soldiers with guard dogs
stationed around us. In the morning the dogs would get us out of hiding. I
was the cook, my engineer was the fireman and the radioman was the thief.
That radioman could steal an egg from under an old hen without her ever
realizing it was gone. We slept in a barn one night and explored and found
the farmer had hidden some wheat behind and under the hay. When we left, we
had our socks and pockets full of grain. We traded for a coffee grinder and
ground our wheat—almost like Cream of Wheat.
We slept one night in a shed of pine
boughs. We discovered that the boughs covered ice and the “ice house”
was a storage place for the farmer’s potatoes. I spent the night with a
stick spearing potatoes. We had all we could carry when we left the
One day while on march, we were going
under a train trestle and some P47s dive-bombed it and strafed it while we
were under it. Some of our POWs were killed but the planes had cameras
synchronized with their guns. When they returned to base and studied the
films, they discovered that they were attacking some POWs. From that point
on, while we were on the march, we were put to bed every night and awakened
every morning by a P51. He would fly beside us on a road fill, wave and
smile and give us the ol’ “Thumbs Up”. Each time we stopped to rest,
we marked our campsite with a ground sign, “POW”, made of toilet paper.
We finally reached Moosburg, staying there some time before we were
On April 29th 1945 General
George Patton overran our camp, releasing us. Our first act was to look for
something to cat. We went down the road to a farmhouse, confiscated some
tame rabbits and on the way back to camp, picked up some chickens—really
traded for them. We took the chickens but left the rabbits in their place.
We were flown out of Germany, then
taken by train to Reims, France, on May 8th 1945, the very day
the Germans were signing their surrender. We were taken to Camp Lucky Strike
near Le Harve, France. After four weeks we boarded the ship, Monticello,
for our journey back to the States. The time at Lucky Strike was spent
sleeping, eating and getting our strength back.
We were the first ship back without
escort. Boy, did that Statue of Liberty look good. It was nice, too, to be
able to read road signs and understand them. Believe me, we read every one.
We were sent to Ft. Leonard Wood,
Missouri and from there—HOME.
The story doesn’t end there. I
developed yellow jaundice and spent twenty-three days in the hospital. I was
discharged October 30th 1945, and started to work for the
Knoxville Post Office on December 5. Over a period of twenty years, I held
jobs at all step levels in the post office. In December 1973 I became
Postmaster, retiring in November of 1980.
now home. The children (four of them) are all gone. I’m getting to hunt,
fish and vacation as I please. My wife is enjoying the good life with me.
World War 11 is almost sixty years behind us.
AAF 201 – (12374) Walter, Charles H., Jr.
20 April 1945
Mrs. Mary E. Walter
1621 McKinley Street
Dear Mrs. Walter:
I am writing you with
reference to your husband, Staff Sergeant Charles H. Walter, Jr., who was
reported by The Adjutant General as missing in action over Germany since 14
Additional information has been received indicating that Sergeant
Walter was the armorer gunner on a B-26 (Marauder) bomber which participated
in a combat mission to Germany on 14 February 1945. The report reveals that
during this mission about 10:30 a.m., southeast of Amsterdam, Holland, four
miles inside of Germany, our planes were subjected to flak and your
husband’s bomber sustained damage. Subsequently the disabled craft left
the formation and was headed in the direction of the American lines when it
disappeared from sight of the crewmembers of accompanying planes. It is
regretted that no further information is obtainable in this headquarters
relative to the whereabouts of Sergeant Walter.
Believing you may wish to communicate with the families of the others who were in the plane with your husband, I am enclosing a list of these men and the names and addresses of their next of kin.
Please be assured that a continuing search by land, sea, and air is being made to discover the whereabouts of our missing personnel. As our armies advance over enemy occupied territory, special troops are assigned to this task, and agencies of our government and allies frequently send in details which aid us in bringing additional information to you.
Major, Air Corps
Acting Chief, Notification Branch Personal Affairs Division
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel