Cpl. T/5 Walter W. Holtkamp, 11th Armored Division
Walter W. Holtkamp was born on December 31, 1920, on a farm near Hawarden,
Iowa. Raised as a Lutheran, Walter was engaged in farming until he
entered the service on October 8, 1942. The following is his story,
told in his own words.
Service Record: In combat I was a half track driver rated Cpl. T/5 with a 50
caliber machine gun, used for personnel and aircraft, was in the
Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne, Belgium.
Camp Encounter: I was present to witness the capture of the concentration camp
of Gusen, a Mauthausen subcamp. It was a horrible sight. Many
prisoners were seen along the roadside, skeletons is all that was
left of them. I also saw flatbeds with corpses stacked up like
cordwood to be cremated. I was in the 11th Armored Division driving
a half track when I saw these prisoners in Mauthausen, Germany.
I earned expert rating with 50 caliber machine gun. I was in the
Battles of Ardennes, Rhineland, and central Europe.
After the War: Cpl. T/5 Holtkamp was discharged on January 27, 1946. He had
this to say about his experiences.
After the war I continued farming on my dad's farm. I was married
in 1952 and had four daughters. I lost my wife in 1994 to multiple
sclerosis after taking care of her for ten years. In 1996 I
remarried Johanna Medema whom is now my loving wife.
Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:
It was a great experience and part of my life. I think that all
the boys should at least go through basic training. It would be a
great experience for them as well.
cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army
one day after their actual liberation; photo courtesy of USHMM
orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian civilians dig mass graves for corpses
found in Gusen, Mauthausen subcamp; photo courtesy USHMM
After the War: Carroll Peterson was discharged on June 26, 1946, and had the
following to say about his experiences.
I attended Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota,
for one year and also graduated from high school the same year. From
1947 to 1987 I was employed with the Department of Transportation at
Webster and Aberdeen, South Dakota. I began as a rodman and retired
as project engineer. Since 1987, the year I retired, I now play golf
and keep busy with snow blowing in the winter, yard work and golf
I was married in 1947 and my wife passed away in 1980. I have four
children. Michael is a special education teacher in Osceola, Iowa;
Douglas is a CPA with Henry Schollten Auditing Firm in Sioux Falls,
South Dakota; Gail (Olson) is a loan officer with Home Federal Bank
in Hartford, South Dakota; Jerry is an auditor with ABC Firm out of
Chicago and lives in Loveland, Colorado. I have a black Lab dog
named Queen. I use her for hunting. I have twelve grandchildren and
two great-grandchildren. At the present I live with a very patient
woman named Margaret, who keeps me on the straight and narrow road
from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:
I would tell students that I had all these experiences, close
calls with death at a very young age of 18 at entry and out before I
was 21; I never had been more than 100 miles from home before I went
into the service, and many more things. I never once thought about
the fact that I couldn't buy beer and I couldn't even vote yet. All
we wanted was to serve our country and keep it free. If today's
students can keep this in mind as they grow, then America will be
the best place on earth. There's a time in your lives for
everything. Don't try to grow up too fast.
In closing, I would say this to today's students: every day is a
new beginning and you're never too old or young to learn. You must
see how the other half lives before you can appreciate what you have
and above everything else is your faith in God.