Army vet, 104, served in WWII, has been lifelong member of Legion, VFW
By Lisa Ridder
Walter Rindy of Mayville, North Dakota, served overseas for the U.S. Army during World War II. He has also been a lifelong member of the American Legion and VFW. He recently reminisced about his days in the war, the Legion and VFW, and other milestones in his 104 years of life.
Walter was born Portland, North Dakota, and attended a one teacher, one-room country school before moving over to Portland High School and graduating in 1936. He worked on the family farm and for area farmers before joining the U.S. Army in 1942.
“I was inducted into the Army on Sept. 23, 1942, at Fort Snelling in Minnesota,” said Walter. “I was considered active duty as of Oct. 7, 1942. I attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was mostly boys from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.”
When Walter joined the service, he had no idea what he might be doing or where he may be stationed. After basic training, Walter returned home for a brief furlough to see family, friends and his then girlfriend, Violet, before going through additional training to serve overseas.
“They asked me to be a squad leader,” he said. “I told them I didn’t really want to do that and that I’d really like to be in the motor pool. I tested high on the aptitude test for mechanics, so I went to Auto and Diesel College in Nashville, Tennessee. One of the best parts (of living there) was I got to attend the Grand Old Opry every Saturday night,” he said.
As Walter completed his auto and diesel training his military company had already moved out to California, leaving Walter to take a train cross country to meet up with them. In California, they would train for what they would face overseas.
“We participated in several maneuvers in the desert near Indio, California, but in the end things didn’t exactly go as planned,” he chuckled. “We were sent to places like New Guinea and Morotai Island, which were definitely nothing like the desert conditions we trained in and planned for.”
On Jan. 15, 1944, Walter and the rest of the 211th Military Police Company 11th Corps boarded a ship near Seattle, Washington and left the continental United States for overseas. His overseas duty would take him to New Guinea, Morotai, Japan and Leyte and Luzon. Their first stop would be New Guinea.
“For the most part it was quiet where we were, because we were further away from combat,” Walter said. “We usually got there after they had taken control of a base. Each place was different. New Guinea was very hot, swampy and a jungle. We were not prepared for that terrain. There were only two of us in the motor pool and we were always very busy as the terrain there was very tough on the vehicles. We always had a lot of work. We worked on trucks, jeeps, motorcycles and 6 x 6’s. We did everything from changing spark plugs and changing oil to major repairs, depending on what need to be done."
Working in the jungles didn’t come without trials, tribulations and numerous stories.
“One day we were in the guard truck and we came across a giant python that was laying across the road,” he said. “They killed it and it was over 18 feet long. It took six of us guys to lift it and hold it up. They were noted for dropping from the trees. We heard that a nurse died because a python dropped from the trees and killed her.”
Medical worries were also top of mind.
“One day I noticed a pimple on my right arm,” he said. “I eventually had a purple streak all the way up my arm and was diagnosed with blood poisoning. I also had malaria and had to be treated for it.”
Malaria was common amongst troops serving in World War II.
And the troops were always trying to prepare for the unexpected.
“I recall one night they gave us ammunition for rifles and we were told to be ready, because they expected Japanese troops to come para trooping in, but it never happened,” he said.
Walter and his company were later stationed at Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines.
“Leyti was a jungle, but it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “There was a lot of coral in Leyti. They dozed out the brush, leveled the coral and put down steel landing plates. The B-52 planes would come in and land for refueling and reloading. It wasn’t quiet either, because planes were always coming and going. They would fly into Leyti and then back out to bomb and sink Japanese ships. Luzon wasn’t bad. It had more farmland and more tillable land,” he said.
Walter knew other people from home were serving over there, too, he just didn’t think he’d cross paths with them.
“I went to Manilla one day and I ran into one of the boys from west of Portland, North Dakota,” he said. “It was fun seeing him. We tried to find people we knew that were stationed where we were and I found several.”
Walter was very frank about his time overseas.
“I wasn’t ever really scared,” he said. “You just wanted to get home again. I missed my family, my friends and girlfriend. I was able to send and receive mail. I could also send pictures home. During the war we also had what was called V-mail, which was photographed mini letters that could be sent to and from the soldiers.”
Sept. 2, 1945 is often referred to as V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day). It is a day Walter vividly recalls.
“There were 41 ships to the convoy at Tokyo Bay, Japan,” he said. “Our ship was anchored next to the USS Missouri. Carrier planes flew overhead like a bunch of birds as they flew over in victory. Japanese Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu (who acted on behalf of Emperor Hirohito) got off the yacht and boarded the USS Missouri to meet with Douglas McArthur. They signed the surrender document. It was broadcast so we knew exactly what was happening and being said.”
Walter vividly remembers the Japanese people during this time. “The Japanese seemed friendly and seemed happy the war was over,” he said. “They were taxed to their limits on food and everything else.”
Shortly after the war came to a close Walter and the others returned to the U.S., arriving in San Francisco, Cali., on Oct. 23, 1945. He was released on Oct. 31, 1945. His mustering out pay was $300 for three years, one month and nine days of military service. His decorations and citations included American Theater Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal with one Bronze Service Star and a Good Conduct Medal. Battles and Campaigns included New Guinea Southern Philippines and Luzon GO33 WD45.
Not long after returning home, Walter married his best friend/girlfriend, Violet. Walter began to resettle in a community he always considered home, Mayville.
“It wasn’t hard adjusting to being home,” said Walter. “I worked on the family farm for a while and for an area farmer. One day, I was in the Chevrolet dealership where we bought cars. He wanted to know what I did in the service and I told him I was a mechanic. He said, ‘I need one.’ I drove to Fargo and got a set of tools at Sears Roebuck and went to work. While I was there I wrote the Civil Service Exam for Rural Carriers. I passed and was a Rural Carrier with the U.S. Post Office for 30 years. When I retired from there, I spent 10 seasons at the Mayville Golf Course. I was Manager for nine of the 10 years.”
After all of that, Walter decided to officially retire. However, he didn’t slow down. He and his wife made several annual trip to Estherville, Iowa to attend his military unit’s annual reunion. They golfed and played cards. Violet passed away this past March. They had been married 74 years. He also joined the VFW and American Legion in Mayville. This past spring he was recently awarded a certificate for 75 years with the American Legion. He’s a life member with both organizations and has also been with the VFW for 75 years. He held a number of offices with the American Legion over the years.
“I used to enjoy going to the reunions and getting yearly Christmas cards from some of my service buddies,” said Walter. “I enjoyed my time with the Legion and VFW too. They used to hold meetings here at the building, accommodating some of us who could not get to the meetings. I miss that. I enjoyed seeing the guys and visiting with them. Not many people make 75 years of membership. When the pandemic hit, they stopped coming here for meetings. Maybe they come back again. I do get email updates.”
Walter and his son Bill got to be part of a WDAY Honor Flight trip to Washington, DC.
“It was really interesting,” he said. “I had never been there before. I was on the very first Honor Flight in 2007. My son, Bill is a Pastor and they asked him to say a prayer at the World War II Monument. He served as the Chaplin for the flight. It was nice getting to see the World War II Memorial.”
Walter still finds plenty to keep him busy. He likes to bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies when he has time. He plays Phase 10 at least three nights a week with his card group where he lives. “I enjoy it,” he said. “It helps me pass the time.” He enjoys keeping track of his six kids, 10 grandkids and 11 great-grandkids using a digital notebook.
At a 104 years old, Walter is proud to be a centenarian. “It’s a long time,” he said. “Not many people make that. I think I really have lead a pretty interesting life. Maybe this story will let some people know I am still around.”