Birthday: September 19, 1924
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Family: John and Irene Grace
Occupation: Sausage maker Expert
Branch: Combat Engineer 1288
Unit: Company A 1286
Rank: Private First Class
Before the war, Walter Grace worked at the Pullman Car Company. They made train cars before the war began. But during the war, they manufactured destroyer escorts, which escorted boats across the Atlantic Ocean.
Walter Grace was drafted in 1943 and served as a Military Policeman. He also worked in demolition. He guarded prisoners of war in Roswell, NM. "We had three camps, 2000 Nazis. German Nazis would not work or do anything so they didn't get anything either. So they got $.80 a day. Then the next compound was the Germans who would work. They worked in the camp and picked cotton out in the fields, worked in the cotton gin, they worked milking cows. The third camp was Austrians and they hated the Germans. Our company was assigned to take them up to the mountains and they would work on farms. After I was there awhile, the Army said, `You're too young to be here.' So then they put me in the Combat Engineers."
In the Combat Engineers, Mr. Grace did a little of everything, but mostly demolition. He blew up buildings, bridges, and most often safes. "In Germany any store or bank that was still open and the safe was not open, we blew it open. We were looking for papers from the Nazi Party. Whatever we found we gave to the C2s. C2 is the name for military intelligence. After that we took the men in this town out and fixed the roads, and then they would get rations for their families. That's the only way they had anything to eat. They had to work for it."
Mr. Grace was then stationed in England for nine months. Half of his battalion widened runways, while the other half worked on building pre-fabricated homes in London. The homes came from Wausau around the time Wausau Homes was started.
Around Christmas time the Battle of the Bulge was going on and Mr. Grace took special training onBailey bridges. " ABailey bridge is a steel bridge that you build across a chasm or a river. We did so well in England on the bailey bridge projects, they chose us to go over and build a Bailey bridge across the Rhine River- 1,530 feet long, floating. We had to go to Holland to get all the parts. We built that bridge in sections of thirty feet long. There's a pontoon on both ends and one in the middle. We worked twenty-four hours a day. We had a night shift. We had tanks with lights that shone on the river. The Rhine River is commercial and they have barges and ships going. And we took the anchors off from these ships and all the cable we could get in sections. And then we anchored two anchors upstream and one downstream on each of those thirty-foot sections until we got across the river. The war was just about over by then and that part was taken over by the British. We were in the English zone. That bridge was up five years after the war ended. And when the war was over we had to help. There were 325,000 German troops and we had to bring them food and water. We did that for three weeks." Mr. Grace was lucky to not have seen much combat during his service in the war. He dealt mostly with German and Austrian POWs who he said were treated just like any other prisoner of war.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104