Carlson, the youngest of four children, grew up in Garwood, N.J. where he lived with his Swedish immigrant parents.
Before the start of the war, he worked as a switchboard wireman for Westinghouse plant. Seeing his older brother follow his dreams of becoming a pilot for the Army Air Forces, he decided to do the same with the Navy.
When he was a child, Carlson had the opportunity to go up in a plane with the second man to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, Clarence Chamberlin. He tried to join the Navy in 1942 but it didn’t work out as he expected. “It was too damned crowded. “I said, ‘The heck with it. I’ll wait ’til I’m drafted,” he said.
He received his draft notice in 1943 and he reported to Fort Dix, N.J. He was then sent to Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss, where he became one of the first 69th Infantry Division member.
Carlson arrived in England in June 1944 and he was part of the third group of boys to be taken out of the division and go to Europe. Soon enough came the opportunity he was waiting for and he joined the 82nd Airborne’s 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, F Company.
In September, his division was set for Market Garden. The Allied forces needed to take out some of the bridges in Holland so they could advance in Germany via the Rhine River. As the weather wasn’t favorable for the gliders, the paratroopers went first.
The troops were in the Keikberg Woods when the heavy fighting started. The first day, Carlson’s group was divided into two; one took the right flank and the second one, with Carlson, took the left.
When a shell came down, it killed everyone on the right side. The fighting continued as the troops were leaving the woods. Carlson’s helmet was hit by a bullet which left a small burn down his face, TheTimes-Tribune.com reports.
Although, Carlson’s division had met their objectives, the Allies didn’t succeed with the operation, meaning that the war would continue over the winter.
Walter Carlson and the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment was then sent at Regne, in the proximity of a house which was the only one around for miles. In the house were a woman, he daughter and their maid. “It was cold, so we asked if we could come in the house,” Mr. Carlson said.
Georgette, the girl, spoke very good English and she was very friendly with the troops, giving them ham and eggs and helping them to clean their machine guns.
The next morning he woke up to see that a massive German tank was out in the backyard. The troops were forced to go into the woods.
When the war was over, he wrote to Georgette and she told him that the house got hit 39 times during the attack. After January 3, the division started pushing the Germans back.
When 150,000 German troops surrendered in Ludwigslust, they knew that the end was near. There is where Carlson first saw what was left of a concentration camp.
Walter Carlson is now 90 years old and living in Scranton. His wife is Caroline Carlson and they have three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.