Walter "Wally" Winter, 11 years old
Commandos," W.W.II As Seen by a Ten-Year Old Boy
November 21, 1994
Interviewer: Jane Blandford
Wally was just ten years old that warm December day
when he saw a kid riding down the street selling
newspapers and hollering "Extra, Extra, Read all
about it! Pearl Harbor bombed!" He was the youngest
of seven children and was relieved that the war ended
before he had to serve. His three older brothers served:
two in the Navy and one in the Marines, and his big
sister in California went from office work to being a
"Rosie the Riveter."
Even the kids tried to
do their part. "Myself and some of the other
neighborhood kids called ourselves 'The Junior
Commandos.' We had our little clubhouse and meeting . . .
and made a real effort to collect whatever was not nailed
down or tied down that was metal or rubber; it was going
to the war effort . . . in summertime it was a daily
ritual. Somebody might have said, 'those ornery kids down
Wally remembers feeling hatred toward the Japanese and
the Germans, even though his father was born in Germany.
Once he saw a truckload of German prisoners who were
being transported to work in the beet fields. He threw
snowballs at them and they shook their fists at him. It
worried young Wally to see so many Germans in the army
trucks being guarded by only two American soldiers.
Air raid warnings also made an impression on Wally.
They came once or twice a month. "The street lights,
everything went off." Everybody had to shut off
their lights or pull their shades or drapes tight so no
light could be seen from the air. Happier memories of
those days include watching for troop trains and
airplanes. "In the summer time . ... . there'd be
flights of bombers, fighters, whatever, going over,
probably twice, three times a week. We would be laying on
the lawn and looking and counting, get up to 50
sometimes, or 75 to 100 airplanes, B-17s. We got to where
we knew all the planes."
He liked walking along with the Air Force men who were
in training in Ft. Collins, living at the Northern Hotel
and going to school at CSU. "This one guy gave me a
patch, an Air Force insignia." He wore it on his
jacket proudly, until his brother came home from the
marines and gave him "a good one."
The troop trains provided Wally with opportunities to
earn some spending money. The soldiers on board would ask
Wally and other kids to mail letters for them or fetch
cigarettes. He'd race to Pearcy's Newsstand where he'd
have no trouble buying cigarettes "for the
soldiers," run back across the field and throw his
purchases through the train windows. The men would flip
him quarters and even fifty cent pieces. "Wow, what
a racket," he thought, but felt proud to help,
especially to mail the servicemen's letters. Once he was
rewarded for his efforts with a salami from the cooks'
car. The salami was much appreciated by his parents, for
with rationing of food and other essential products,
families often had to go without special treats.
The Winter family's front window proudly displayed
three stars, one for each of their sons in the service.
Fortunately none were replaced with the gold star,
indicating a death. Wally's mother kept a scrapbook on
the Larimer County men who served during the war. It
contains sad reminders of men who were killed, missing or
captured, as well as pictures, a ration book, and letters
from his brothers on "V-Mail." A copy may be
viewed in the Local History Archive.