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Battle of the Bulge veteran would still fight for his country

By Ben Norman

Walter Folmar is still proud of his old unit, the 99th Infantry Division.
Walter Folmar is still proud of his old unit, the 99th Infantry Division.

Walter Folmar slept in everything from a pup tent to an abandoned German castle as his army unit chased the Germans across Europe.

Walter Folmar said he realized he was a long way from the Goshen, Ala., farm where he was raised when the first artillery shell landed close to him and shrapnel was fl ying everywhere.

“I was sent in as a replacement in the Battle of the Bulge,” Folmar recalls. “The 99th and 106th infantry division had suffered heavy losses when the Germans drove a wedge in between them. We were winning and had the Germans on the run when I got there, but I still saw more combat than I wanted to.”

Folmar graduated from Goshen High School in 1942 and went to work with a construction company near Oak Ridge, Tenn., where development of the atomic bomb was being done under top-secret conditions.

“I got drafted and went to Camp Blanding, Florida, for my basic training. The main thing I remember about Blanding was how isolated and hot it was there. I spent 17 weeks there. They were really running men through training because they were needed on the front as fast as possible,” says Folmar.

According to Folmar, the 99th Infantry Division had the Germans on the run and finally surrounded them in the Ruhr Valley. “ It was cold, freezing weather and the Germans were running out of food and supplies. We were capturing Germans right and left. They had a lot of big tanks and artillery but they were out of fuel. When we would approach they would raise their hands and shout in German they were out of fuel and surrendering.

“The Germans were losing the war but many of their units were still offering a lot of resistance. I was primarily a machine gunner but also helped out with the 81 mortar squad,” he says.

“We had that old heavy water-cooled .30 caliber machine gun mounted on a jeep, but we could take it off and set up on a tripod in short order. When we would take a village, we all had to pitch in and help in the house-to-house fighting. It was dangerous clearing all the abandoned houses as most had cellars and that’s where you would find the German soldiers hiding.”

The 99th was also responsible for liberating many German slave labor camps and prisoner of war camps where captured American and Russian solders were being held. “They were sure glad to see us. The American prisoners were not in the best of shape but the Russian soldiers were treated much worse than the Americans,” he says.

Like other WWII veterans, Folmar returned home and tried to take up where he left off before the war. He went to work with the Pike County Road Department, married the love of his life, Enid Carmichael, and had two children, Walter Jr. and Laurianne Johnson. He later went to work with a company buying crossties and opened his own crosstie loading company.

Walter Folmar celebrated his 90th birthday on September 19, 2013. When asked at his birthday party if he would still fight for his country, he sat up in his chair with a serious glint in his eye and said, “I’d fight for my country and family as fast today as back then. I couldn’t shoot as good now, but I could still operate one of them old water-cooled .30 calibers. I could still throw enough lead down range to scare ’em to death or at least run them off ,” he says, laughing.

We are losing our WWII veterans at a rapid rate. We need to let them, and the veterans of all wars, know how much we appreciate them.  e next time you encounter a veteran stop them, shake his hand and tell them how much you appreciate him keeping us free.

Ben Norman is a writer from Highland Home, Ala.