Walt A. Maguire
France, Holland, Belgium
D Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne
I Walt Maguire was born February 19th, 1920 in
Philadelphia, he grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia
(52 West Wyneva St). His father Walt died in 1926, he and his mother
Mary and his brother Jack had it kind of rough for a few years,
plus it was the time of the great depression, but they survived
and got through it ok. He graduated from North Catholic High School
in 1938. While at North Catholic he played football and track, he
was incredibly fast, he was the fastest quartermiler in the state
of Pennsylvania in 1938, he held the state 440 record.
Throughout his entire life he was a big sports
fan, when he was a kid in the 1920’s and 1930’s he went
to many a Philadelphia A’s game at Connie Mack stadium. When
he was 9, he got a foul ball hit down the left field line, over
the next 12 years he got players to sign that ball, you couldn’t
be just anybody to sign Walt Maguire’s ball, you had to be
a star. The ball is signed by ten player’s who are in the
Hall of Fame, among them Jimmy Fox, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove and
Babe Ruth. It is one of my most prized possessions. Throughout his
adult life he was always a big fan of the Phillies and Eagles. Since
we grew up in the New York area I became a Yankee and Giant fan.
Walt hated the New York teams. We had a good rivalry.
During his teenage years Walt was a shoeshine
boy at the ballroom which was one of the regular tour stops for
all the popular Big Bands of the era. Every important big band of
the time played gigs there, he heard everybody, the best horn players
in the world, he soaked it all in. This began his love affair with
music, and later in life became his “job”.
He was working in a pharmacy and going to school at the Philadelphia
College of Pharmacy when the war broke out. He joined the army in
the fall of 1942, he then volunteered for the paratroops, joining
In 1942 his brother Jack joined the Navy, Jack
was an engine room mechanic on a Heavy Crusier, his ship fought
many sea battles in the Pacific Theatre. Jack and his crewmates
repeatedly distinguished themselves in heated battles with the Japanese
navy. Walt was there for most of the battles fought by the 101st
, he received 3 Purple Hearts. He received a bullet wound in Holland.
At Bastogne he was wounded twice, once during the initial contact
on the 19th , and on the 22nd he got hit by a German 88 tank shell.
He spent about 6 weeks with hospital/recuperation time, and rejoined
the regiment at Mourmelon, France in early March, just in time to
receive the Distinguished Unit Citation.
I am not 100% sure about this, but I think that
when he parachuted into Normandy he was a Private or Corporal, then
was promoted to Sergeant in England in July, and was a squad leader
the rest of the war. He talked about “Maguire’s Magpies”
I was assuming he was talking about the name the gave to his squad?
An appropriate name, Magpie - an obnoxious, pesky, aggressive bird.
He also mentioned that he worked on the regiment’s newspaper,
but I don’t know any details. He was one of the “old
guys” so he had racked up a lot of points, he was in some
of the first groups to go home. He returned to Philadelphia in the
fall of 1945, he met Frances Bavis in 1946, they got married in
1947. My sister Dale was born in 1948, I was born in 1951, and my
brother Jim in 1954.
Walt worked a sportscaster in Philadelphia radio
and TV from 1946 to 1953, he worked for the CBS TV station, one
of his friends and co-workers was Jack Whittaker. But TV was slow
to take off in the early 1950’s, a good friend of his offered
him a job at London Records at higher pay, he took it. He worked
as a “promotion man” in the Mid-Atlantic states for
a two years, then we moved to New York where he took a bigger job
at the main London Records office. He moved up the ranks quickly
in New York, he eventually became the Director of Artists &
Recording, and Senior Vice President. He “discovered”
and signed to their first contracts such artists as The Rolling
Stones, Moody Blues, Roy Orbison, David Bowie, ZZ Top, Cat Stevens,
Al Green, and many others. He was the executive producer of many
of the classic recordings of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
He was the producer for over 60 gold and platinum albums.
Walt also had many musician friends, people like
Benny Goodman, Les Paul, and Buddy Rich. They would hang out with
my father, drink beer in the backyard and stay over for dinner.
My father and Les Paul were particularly close friends. I was the
envy of my friends, how many kids had fathers who hung with the
Stones, and would unwind at home with a beer and Jimi Hendrix blasting
on the stereo? Oh, do I have some Rock and Roll stories I could
tell you about Walt . . . .
We eventually settled in Tenafly, New Jersey just 6 miles northwest
of Manhattan. Walt lived in the same house for thirty years until
his death in 1988. When I was a kid I was always interested in history,
I would rather watch “Victory at Sea” documentaries
instead of cartoons. In the early 1960’s my father and I were
in the den, I was watching TV, he was reading the newspaper, I was
watching the show “Combat” , I looked right at my Dad
and asked him “ Dad, how many Germans did you kill”
He thought about it for about ten seconds, then he told me . . .
. . I was astounded, that began our dialog that lasted up to time
that he died. I was the only one in my family that really pumped
him for information about the war, he found an “outlet’
in me , he told me everything. During those years we discussed his
war experience at length, some of the things that he told me were
almost beyond belief.
The things he told me were “Don Burgett”
type stuff. Just brutal experiences, combat in it’s rawest
form. Somehow he survived, I believe that only 5 members of the
original squad that parachuted into Normandy survived the war. It
was a defining time of his life. He was eternally grateful that
he survived, during France, Holland and Belgium he thought he would
get it sooner or later, it wasn’t until they were cruising
through Southern Germany and the end of the war looked imminent
that he said “ God, I am actually going to make it through
London Records was a British company, so Walt
went on business trips to London 3-4 times a year. After he concluded
his business in London, he would sometimes go to mainland Europe,
by himself, before returning to New York. He went to Normandy, he
would go to “the farm one mile south of that village”
in Holland where a close friend was killed, he had emotional experiences
walking the U.S. cemeteries in Holland and Belguim, he traveled
to Bastogne, he hiked the area around Bizory and Neffe, he walked
through the Bois Jacques forest. Many of his fellow troopers never
came home, he always said he that he was one of the lucky ones.
He never forgot those men.
Walt died in 1988 of Amaloydosis, he was only
68, not a day goes by without me thinking of him. I miss him terribly,
the attention given the 101st, and the Band of Brothers phenomenon
has caused me to miss him even more. I am an extremely lucky son
to have had a father like Walt Maguire.
Shoulderpatch of the 101st Airborne Division.
Walt with his sergeant stripes.
Walt with his friends in front of his plane.