Testimonies from the Midwest

 

Cpl. T/5 Walter W. Holtkamp, 11th Armored Division 

War time photo of Walter W. Holtkamp   Division patch   Current photo of Walter W. Holtkamp

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.    

Awards: 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.

Mauthausen survivors cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army one day after their actual liberation; photo courtesy of USHMM

Mauthausen survivors cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army one day after their actual liberation; photo courtesy of USHMM  

Under orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian civilians dig mass graves for corpses found in Gusen, Mauthausen subcamp; photo courtesy USHMM

 Under orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian civilians dig mass graves for corpses found in Gusen, Mauthausen subcamp; photo courtesy USHMM

http://www.geocities.com/the11thada/

 

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 all summer.

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 of life.

 

Advice 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.

http://www.usarc.army.mil/80thDiv/DIVHIST.HTM