© WW2 Market Garden -
Walther Steward Van Poyck was born in 1914 in Wilkes-
After university Walther gets hooked on jazz music and learned to play the clarinet. He decides to form a band and travels to Europe with his musical band playing jazz music in several countries.
Walther enlisted for the U.S. Army on 12 September 1941 at Camp Blanding, Florida just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He volunteers for the newly created Airborne divisons and ends up with the 82nd Airborne Division, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He trained with the division at Camp Blanding, Camp Wheeler, Fort Bragg and ends up in Fort Benning where he was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant. On April 17 the division was moved to Camp Edwards for embarkation to the European Theater of War (ETO).
Walther, together with the division left the U.S. on April 29 on route to Morroco to prepare for the invasion of Europe. The division takes part in the invasion of Italy and Walther's unit, Company E of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, is one of the units spearheading the attack. The division was moved by truck to Tunisia to prepare for their first combat mission.
On July 11 1943 the 504 PIR entered the ETO by supporting the invasion of Sicily, Italy. On their way to Sicily in their C-
Then Operation Avalanche started, the invasion of mainland Italy, on September 9 1943. The landings took place at Salerno. The landings were succesful but the allied troops met heavy enemy opposition and didn't have enough depth in the lines. Two battalions, the 1st and 2nd battalion, of the 504 PIR was asked to jump into the bridgehead to reinforce the lines. The units jumped right on top of the beaches and Walther's battalion dug in close to Albanella. The regiment fought against a determined enemy and Walther led his company to many battles, gaining combat experience but losing a lot of his subordinates. The 504 PIR was the first unit to enter Naples after long and intense fighting and was valued by allied commanders as a very experienced and tough unit. Walther gained a lot of leadership skills, growing into a fierce combat leader. Colonel Tucker saw Walther van Poyck as one of his best company commanders. Reserved as a person but fierce as a combat leader, leading his men from the frontlines. After more fighting in mainland Italy, the regiment returned to Naples in January of 1944. The 82nd Airborne Division was finally transferred from Italy to England to prepare for the invasion of France. The 504 PIR, having suffered many casualties during the Italian campaign, was held back from the 'D-
After a long time of training in England the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment was called upon again. As part of the 82nd Airborne Division they were taking part in Operation Market Garden. The task of the 504 PIR was to capture the bridge over the river Maas at Grave and bridges over the Maas-
Walther's company, Company E, or Captain Richardson's Company F would receive the prize. The so-
Walther van Poyck had a bad feeling about the mission. Even though he saw the advantage of a daytime jump and he felt secure of his platoon leaders and his men, he had a bad premonition, saying to himself that he was not going to make it this time.
On 17 September Walther and his company left for Grave, jumping on the dropzone north-
The Grave bridge was seized by Lt. Thompson and his men and later the bridge defenses were strenghtened on the east side by men of Company F. Walther van Poyck's company was very succesful on the first day of Operation Market Garden, seizing the largest span bridge in Europe. Two days later, on 19 September at around 8.15 hours in the morning, Walther van Poyck heard the rumble of a tank column. The incident of the 17th still in the back of his mind, he reacted cautious, but the link up was made. These tanks were the tanks of British XXX-
For his leadership on 17 September at Grave during Operation Market Garden, Walther earned the Silver star medal, the 3rd highest award for bravery in the U.S. Army.
Photo: Walther van Poyck in combat gear holding his favorite weapon, the Thompson submachine gun.
Bridge number 11, the bridge at Grave. The bridge that had to be seized by Company E and Company F of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment on September 17.
For a couple of days combat for Walther's company was limited to combat patrols on the left flank of the division's area of operations, between Hatert and Grave. Walther's company and the rest of 2nd battalion was asked to support the Waalcrossing from the south side of the Waal on 20 September.
Just after Operation Market Garden, the 504 PIR is still in the operations area, acting as frontline infantry, guarding the area from German repossession. On 3 October, Walther is resting in a farmhouse with the remainder of his company in Erlecom, a small town close to Beek-
During his stay in Walther Reed, a nice looking nurse called Phyllis Herland takes care of him. Walther and Phyllis fall in love and in 1947 end up in Miami, Florida, where Walther starts working for Eastern Airlines again. Together they get three children, Jeff, William Jr. and Lisa. In the winter of 1956, when Phyllis is pregnant of their fourth child, she is taking care of the family next door. She decides to stay the night to take better care of the family, but the next morning, Walther finds his wife and the neigbors dead or dying in the house due to Carbon monoxide poisoning. He tries to save his wife, but later that day she dies, with an unborn baby still inside her belly.
Walther suffured from his combat experiences and suffered even more when he lost his wife to early in life to carbon monoxide poisoning. Walther van Poyck had a hard time raising his kids. He married his second wife, Lee Van Poyck in 1960 and worked at Eastern Airlines until 1970. Walther died on 16 December 1972.
Captain Walther Steward Van Poyck
Company E, 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Place and date: Grave, the Netherlands, 17 September 1944
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain (Infantry) Walter S. Van Poyck (ASN: 0-
General Orders: Headquarters, 82d Airborne Division, General Orders No. 122 (October 5, 1945)