Walter Cecil Warner, Jr. 1920 – December 18, 1944

Walter Cecil Warner, Jr.

1920 – December 18, 1944

photoWalter as an altar boy

Walter Warner and his family moved to the Pine Hills section of Albany when Walter was a child. Walter’s father, Walter Sr., worked in Albany’s bustling railroad industry and his mother, Susan, took care of Walter, whom the family called Bud, and younger brother Donald, called Red. The family were active members of St. Andrew’s. Susan was a member and officer of the Women’s Auxiliary, both boys sang in the Choir, and Walter was an altar boy. When he turned 15, Walter joined the Young People’s Fellowship and rose to be its president.

Walter Warner attended Albany High School where he was an excellent student and a member of the Old Philogians literary society. After graduation he went to work as a clerk at the Adels-Loeb jewelry store on Pearl Street. While working Walter remained active at St. Andrew’s, singing in the choir — once even playing the role of chief priest in the Easter pageant! In 1942 he entered Union College but was there only a year before being drafted into the Army. Don was called up also and went into the Navy. Don’s daughter Nancy remembers being told that the brothers celebrated being home on leave together once by rolling up the rugs and having a party!

Like all inductees, Walter Warner took the Army’s General Classification Test. Walter’s score was high enough to qualify him for a place in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Anticipating a long war which would deplete the supply of college graduates in vital areas such as engineering, the Army developed the ASTP to educate the top recruits into the service. Soldiers in the ASTP would attend college in an accelerated program at Army expense. In exchange, ASTP participants would remain privates, receiving the minimum pay, and would be required to adhere to a rigorous schedule of classes and training.

Walter Warner chose to join the ASTP and after basic training was sent to Virginia Polytechnic Institute to study engineering. Walter’s niece, Nancy, recalls her grandmother saying she believed Walter would be safer in the ASTP than in the regular Army. Walter’s parents were dismayed when, in 1944, the Army abruptly removed most of the ASTP students from the program. A growing need for soldiers in the war could not be met through the draft and the more than 100,000 ASTPers were needed for regular service at once. With little notice, Walter was sent to join the 84th “Railsplitters” Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

photoWalter in uniform

Despite any feelings he may have had over being so quickly pulled from the ASTP, Walter Warner set out to be a model soldier. While training at Camp Claiborne he was awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge, given only to soldiers who pass a rigorous series of mental and physical exams. Many soldiers do not attempt to earn the badge and less than 10 percent of those who try succeed.  Walter also earned the Good Conduct Medal, given to soldiers displaying “exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity.”

In August, the 84th Division was given orders to ship out. Walter Warner’s mother was able to travel south and see Walter before his departure. The division went to England for final training and then landed on Omaha Beach November 2, 1944. They reached the front lines near the German city of Aachen later that month. The 84th Division joined British and American troops attempting to push the German Army out of Holland.

By mid-December Walter Warner and his regiment were positioned against the Siegfried Line, a series of fortified barriers constructed to protect the German border. On the 18th of December the 84th moved forward to capture the German villages of Wurm and Mullendorf. Walter and his company settled in that night in Lindern, Germany where Walter joined a few friends in a burnt out building. An incoming German mortar round landed near them and Walter was hit.  Despite the efforts of his friends and the medic Walter died just after reaching an aid station. He was 24 years old.

Walter Warner’s parents wanted him to be remembered at St. Andrew’s. They dedicated a stained glass window depicting St. Michael the Archangel in his memory. Placed just north of the altar, the window bears the inscription “Walter Cecil Warner, Jr. 1920–1944 Let’s Not Be Bitter.” Walter’s old co-workers from Adels-Loeb donated a pair of silver candlesticks; a pair of matching vases was added by another donor.

photoLieske at Walter’s grave

Walter Warner is buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. In 1946 Walter’s parents received a letter from a young Dutch woman named Lieske. Lieske’s family had sheltered American troops during the war and she had befriended one who asked her to send a photo of Walter’s grave to his parents. Lieske expressed her gratitude for the liberation of Holland and offered, if Walter’s parents wished, to tend his grave in the cemetery. They accepted. Lieske continued to do so for many years, keeping in touch with Walter’s family. In the 1960s Walter’s parents were able to travel to Holland to see Walter’s grave and meet the woman who had cared for it for so long.