Third Party Press

A long-forgotten time capsule from 1945

Tiger 2 Tank

Senior Member
Hello fellow collectors and enthusiasts.

I want to present to you a neat bring back story that, if not for a certain set of events, would have eventually been lost to time. This is a story of WWII veteran Willard C Poeth, the Walther factory and his captured bring back pistol rig P.38 ac45 #9057b.

On 09-30-2020, I saw an advertisement on Legacy Collectibles (Paoli, PA) website where P.38 ac45 #9057b pistol rig was for sale. I already had two other P.38 ac45’s in my collection. This one was in really nice condition. It had the pistol, two late war mags and a tan P.38 unmarked commercial holster with it. The two mags were a late war green phosphate finished jvd U mag and an un-proof’ed P.38v U mag with a ribbed follower with almost little bluing. The holster is an unmarked tan commercial type. I usually see these types of holsters with P.38 “mod P38” commercial pistols, so it was a neat combination with this rig. The price on the rig was a little high, but the whole rig was in too nice of a condition to pass. I purchased the pistol rig and upon receiving it, I was really pleased.

Legacy Collectible advertisement (used with permission from Tom Whiteman)
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Upon receiving it, I went through everything. I found the pistol was probably nicer than the photos were showing. The grip strap (where wear usually hits these pretty hard) is in really nice condition with very minimal bluing loss. A little expected wear on the normal areas of the mags and working areas of the gun. The pistol is all matching; frame, slide, locking block and barrel. The slide has two proof stamps instead of the normal three, meaning it was not final proofed. The front sight post is also not staked. Bore condition is excellent as well. The barrel is an FNH factory Czech type. A lot of small parts are gray phosphate finished. The hammer is not the cog type as found on a lot of these late b block pistols, but is the standard type. This one has a nice set of black plastic grips. One of my b block pistols has a set of Durofol grips and the other b block pistol has a set of dark brown grips.

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The holster is the key to this whole thing. I began checking the holster out and found that a name and service number were written under the holster’s flap. This was a little disappointing (at first). I usually try and stay away from “written on” holsters (It’s the ridiculous “purist” in me that I have since slacked off from, but not totally). Oh well, I bought the rig for the gun and mags anyway, so I wasn’t too heart broken about it. It was still a nice holster regardless. I tagged the holster as to which gun it came with and put it up in my holster stash. My advanced collector friends have warned me about being too purist with this stuff.

After a while, I began wondering about the vet’s information on the inside flap of that holster. A few weeks later, I began to look for information on the internet for the veteran written in the holster’s inside flap. No real reason, just my research instincts took over I guess. The written information is as follows:

Willard C Poeth 33516379

The writing is a little hard to read as in some places it’s pretty light. I had to take photos and use good lighting to get it all down correctly. After getting this, I did a quick search on the internet and found that some basic information did exist.

I know a lady that loves to do research on Ancestory.com . Give her some basic information and she can find what you need. She was my neighbor and she knows a little about the military as her father was a veteran and her husband is a Vietnam War veteran. So, she knows what to look for on this stuff. I asked her for help on researching this veteran. She agreed to help me and a few weeks went by and she brought me a huge packet of information.

What she found was that Mr. Poeth had served in WWII, in the 11th Armored Division, 22nd Tank Battalion. The same unit that captured the Walther factory in Zella-Mehlis!

A little quick history here: The 11th Armored Division was also known as “The Thunderbolts”. The 22nd Tank Battalion was activated and 08-15-1942 with the 11th Armored Division. They trained in in the Mojave Desert and ended up in California. In September/1944, they moved to New Jersey where they boarded troop ships to England. December/1944, they landed and moved through France to back up units devastated by the Germans in The Battle of the Bulge. After “The Battle of the Bulge”, they went through many battles to where they finally reached Zella-Mehlis (home of the Walther factory) on 04-05-1945, leaving Zella-Mehlis shortly after where they ended up in Austria. The 90th Infantry Division was also involved, but was probably some 70 to 80 miles behind the 22nd Tank Battalion when they reached Zella-Mehlis. Source: “The 11th Armored Division Legacy Group” and Ron Clarin’s Forum thread “The Walther Factory by Ron Clarin”.

My former neighbor’s information packet on Mr. Poeth contained the following:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania certificate of birth #98985.

Registration Card D.S.S. Form 1, serial #422, order #1870 (Draft Card), dated 11-26-1940, Mifflinburg, (Union Co.) Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania World War II Veterans Compensation Bureau, Application for World War II Compensation, batch #11468, dated 04-03-1950. Shows dates of foreign service for Mr. Poeth on 09-28-1944 to 11-10-1945.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania certificate of death, #092515-65. Back showing for Mr. Poeth:
Branch of Service: Army
Name of War: WWII
Service #33516379
Organization and rank at discharge: Technician 4th grade-Service Co. 22nd Tank Battalion
Date Enlisted: 10-16-1943
Date Discharged: 11-15-1945
Character of Discharge: Honorable

Union County, State of Pennsylvania, Record of burial place of veteran
Lewisburg Cemetery
Dates of Service: 10-16-1943 to 11-15-1945
Organization(s) Service Co. - 22nd Tank Battalion
Rank: T/4

My former neighbor also had an Ancestory.com informal page that showed an admission date of Dec 1944, Mr. Poeth was injured in the line of duty:
Type of injury: casualty, battle
Diagnosis: First location: humerus: shaft (code possibly also means Humerus, upper extremity); Causative Agent: bullet, rifle.
Medical treatment: Fracture, compound, closed, treatment of, with splints or casts.
Type of discharge: Discharged, Sec. II, AR 615-360 (line of duty, Yes)

Mr. Poeth was born in Lewisburg, PA on 06-05-1908. Mr. Poeth was a little older than a lot of the soldiers that went into WWII. Mr. Poeth died in Lewisburg, PA on 09-15-1965 from pancreatic cancer. He married Helen just before WWII began on 04-17-1937 in Gettysburg, PA. They did not have any children. Mr. Poeth showed to be a “laborer” or a truck driver, self employed.

I contacted Tom Whiteman at Legacy Collectibles to see if he had any information on this P.38 ac45 rig that he sold me. Tom explained that the rig came from “a local collector” who got it a few years prior at an Allentown (Pennsylvania) gun show. The collector did not know anything else as to whom he got it from.

I contacted the Lewisburg Cemetery where Mr. and Mrs Poeth are buried. The cemetery caretaker found the grave site, cleaned the headstone, photographed it and emailed it to me. The headstone reads: “T/4 SV. CO. 22, Tank BN. W.W.II”.

Also included in the packet was Mr. Poeth’s family information. I was able to use that to contact Mr. Poeth’s niece on 03-04-2021 by Facebook Messenger. She related that she was very young when her Uncle Willard was alive. She remembered him as “a great Uncle” who did not talk about the War. Her Uncle Willard was called “Pochy” and her Aunt was called “Henny”. She provided me with Mr. Poeth’s obituary and a photo of him sitting on the back of a motorcycle with his brothers. This was the first glimpse of what Mr. Poeth looked like. It’s neat to put a face to someone you have read and studied about.

The obituary provided a lot of information. It states the following:

Member of the Christ Lutheran Church
Member of the American Legion in Lewisburg
Member of the Mifflinburg VFW
Life member of the William Cameron Engine Co. and the Glen Iron Fire Company

He received the Good Conduct Medal,
Distinguished Unit Badge and E.A.M.E. Service Medal with three bronze stars.

Mr. Poeth’s niece had explained to her elderly mother of my contact with her and about the pistol rig that was brought back from the War with Mr. Poeth’s information on it, linking him to the pistol rig. I sent Mr. Poeth’s niece photos of the pistol rig and her Uncle’s written information on the holster. Sadly, on 03-20-2021, I was informed that Mr. Poeth’s niece’s mother had passed away but not before she was told of Mr. Poeth’s historical artifacts that he brought back and history that was coming back to light.

Shortly after Mr. Poeth’s niece’s mother passed, she informed me that they had found a photo album at her mother’s home that has her Uncle’s photos during the War. The photos show him with his unit. One photo shows a truck with the unit markings stenciled on the front bumper. Another photo titled “my iron casket” shows Mr. Poeth standing in front of what looks like a brand new Pershing tank. This unit received a very small, limited number of these Pershing tanks at the very end of the war in Germany. Also, he had some other paper money souvenirs and an SS soldier’s photo.

So, what is here? A set of circumstances that I am convinced show enough probable cause to believe that Mr. Poeth either captured this pistol rig himself or somehow got it from the Walther factory on or about 04-05-1945, bringing it back to the United States after the War. Even though no capture papers exist (that I am aware of) and no first hand account of how the pistol rig came to the United States, I have a pistol rig with a vet’s information who happened to serve with the same unit that captured the Walther factory. The pistol is a known type, by serial number, that was more than likely still in the factory at the time of capture. The mags are also late war and of a type that would have been put with this pistol.

Who would have known that the few seconds Mr. Poeth took to write his information in a holster would revive his history some 76 years later? I’m convinced that if my curiosity hadn’t gotten ahold of me to check the history on the vet who wrote his information in the holster, his history would have simply disappeared before too much longer. They had no children to pass it along to. Another collector could have done the same thing I guess, but would they have? I hope you enjoy the photos and story. The photos will be uploaded shortly. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Special thanks to the following people who helped me with this:

Bobbie Poeth Shreckengast (Mr. Poeth’s niece)

Sharon Krieger (my former neighbor)

Legacy Collectibles’ Tom Whiteman

Jeremy Beaver (Lewisburg Cemetery caretaker)

Ron Clarin (For his P.38 ac45 threads on the p38forum and historical homework on this subject)
 

sturmgrenadier

Senior Member
Beautiful late war Walther Kelly, love the mag finish. Nice research on the name / serial: putting those investigatory skills to work.
 

Tiger 2 Tank

Senior Member
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Poeth is thought to be the one looking in the box car.
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Mr. Poeth sitting, far right
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Mrs. Poeth
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Training photo (Mr. Poeth on 2nd row left
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Truck named “slim”
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Mr. and Mrs. Poeth
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Training photo. Mr. Poeth on the right
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Tiger 2 Tank

Senior Member
Mr. Poeth later in life. Center
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Mr. Poeth, sitting far left on bike
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List of towns where he fought. For some reason he typed this out, thinking he may need it some day. Check out the April 5’ 1945 entry. Zella Mehlis!
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flynaked

Senior Member
Well done Kelly! The pistol is just a cool hunk of steel, but the research on the vet makes it really come to life!
 

Tiger 2 Tank

Senior Member
Well done Kelly! The pistol is just a cool hunk of steel, but the research on the vet makes it really come to life!

Thanks! I have some more rigs that I have info on that I want to go further with. It really does make it come to life.
 

pzjgr

EOD - bombs and bullets
Thats an awesome story, and some damned fine research Kelly, congrats on bringing it all together!
 

mauser99

Senior Member
moral of the story ... try to stop NOT buying holsters with names written under the flap. Hard to say if the rig was together since the war but, doesn't really matter in the gran scheme of things. I enjoyed the post !
 

mrfarb

No War Eagles For You!
This post is a great example of why I am no longer a "purist" type collector. Once you get past the novelty of things, you realize the history of things is much more interesting. I enjoyed the photos as well, I looked at those more than the pistol.
 

Absolut

Senior Member
Holy crap now I realized .. he had spent his last days in my district. That is ALL just minutes away. No surprise though, he got some names wrong. It should be "Peilstein" and not "Pielstein". Side story on that town: Hitler hat relatives there, his half sister Angela Raubal, who's husband had died soon and therefore the two kids were often with her sister Maria Raubal, a ground school teacher from 1888 to 1922 in Peilstein. Angela Raubal was a result of the second marriage of Adolf Hitlers father Alois with Franziska Matzelsberger. Adolf Hitler later had a relationship with the daughter of Angela Raubal, named again Angela, therefore called "Geli". A local historian wrote on this, see this document here: https://www.ooegeschichte.at/fileadmin/media/migrated/bibliografiedb/hbl1994_3_281-284.pdf . Sorry, only German - but you can see an illustration and even a period picture of Hitler's first love.
Side note on this side note, that town has rather steep roads and buildings are very close to each other in the center. So close that back then the German tanks couldn't go through. Due to that the Germans in WWII removed a part of a building in there to allow a tank to pass. As you can guess, per today standards this means it is still extremely narrow. When two trucks meet in there, you can be sure you'll have to wait a few minutes.

Anyway, to correct all three wrong entries:
1st May - Peilstein (not Pielstein)
3rd May - Grammastetten (not Grammestattin)
5th May - Hellmonsödt (not Helmonstodt)

Many of the German town names are also typed wrong, such as Grafenwörth (Crafenwohr, 19th April). I'm not too sure on all of them, but if you want to get the list fully correct I can see if I can help you with others too.

Edit: some people here were killed by Nazis because they removed (supposed) tank stopping tree barriers, and two also managed to avoid exposives at bridges to allow US tanks to clear and go to Linz. The dating of him perfectly fits that schedule.
 
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Muncher 1953

Senior Member
Thank you & those who helped for taking the time to put this together. It’s somewhat miraculous that enough parts of the story survived, that that timing fell into place, that the holster came to you, that curiosity crept into your mind, all at the ‘right moment’ in time & history.

Like many who served in WW2, Mr. Poeth didn’t seem to tell “war stories”, your diligence in discovering this man’s story and sharing it is to be commended, preserving his memory a bit longer.


Thank you for posting all of this !
 

Tiger 2 Tank

Senior Member
Absolut- Thanks! I saw a town or two that I thought wasn’t spelled right but I guess it’s the best he could do at the time he typed (or had it typed) out. We’ll never know why he felt the need to do the list. I don’t think anyone is left in the family that is into their history so much anymore. The niece was really nice and was going to try and ask the “family historian” (her mother) more, but she was probably going through issues just before she died. It was neat that she relayed how she told her mother about this, and just in the nick of time. Of course I don’t think the mother was so much interested in the pistol itself but just to know about the artifact with his information was discovered, which brought back memories and thoughts of him probably made her a little happy. At least that’s the impression I got. I thought all I would have is the one motorcycle photo of him and the obituary. The motorcycle photo was great because at least I could put a facial image to all this. Then the finding of the album! Neat stuff. And, the niece was real nice to share too. I’m afraid most people would have thought something weird was up and not communicated with me, but she had the courage to reach back to me with all this. Your side history is much appreciated too and interesting to read.

I also read that the 11th Armored, when they first got into action, General Patton was not impressed with them. Patton was quoted as having said that they took too many risks with little results. Also, I read about a massacre of surrendered SS troops they reportedly did during the “Bulge” time frame ( Chenogne massacre ) thought to have been in retaliation for the Malmedy massacre of our guys. Patton was worried at one point that it would blow up into a huge problem for them. It turns out that nothing was ever done about it and an investigation was stopped and never put into action. So, it sort of disappeared. I like the negative things too as it makes everything more real. I hate the “hero stuff” when that’s all that’s put into a story. It’s just not how things usually go.

mauser99- Yep, good morale of the story! So true and I can definitely see that now. You are correct that I cannot directly put all this together as for 100% sure on everything. BUT, I think I have enough circumstances that can show all this without the direct first hand account and a bring back paper. For me, it was just enough to say “guilty”.

mrfarb- Thanks. I really liked the family pics and stuff like that too. You have (or had) a P.38 ac45 rig like this too if I remember right? There were more photos the niece provided but they had glare and at angles that weren’t easy to put with all this where she photographed them for me for this project.

joryfreeburg- Thank you.

Muncher 1953- Absolutely! Thank you for checking this out. So true on how they kept quiet about the war. It must have been really devastating to them. I think he may have suffered long term issues with the War on some of the things she told me.

While doing this research, I called the Fire Department where the obituary stated he was a member of. And of course they didn’t have anything that far back. I even called the 11th Armored reunion group’s former treasurer for information. He told me that he ended up as a treasurer because everyone in the group was practically gone by then. The former treasurer said he was not a WWII vet but took up the job because the WWII guys were almost all gone. Their last reunion was in 2010 with most of them gone and any still left (by now) would be in a nursing home. He told me that the older guys that came to the units (like Mr. Poeth) would more than likely been put in the motor pool or somewhere like that. He was in his 30’s when the War was going on and most soldiers were in their late teens and twenties. I really wished I knew what his actual job was, but I’m thinking he probably did anything they needed at the time. Maintenance here and there, maybe a tank crew member for a while, then on to whatever else was needed. It’s probably all gone to history now, but I’ll still keep digging where I can. I would say most of my leads are closed up now and what I got is all that’s going to be available.
 
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mauser202

Senior Member
Great post, absolutely loved the photos. The history and pics make a really nice pistol so much more interesting.
 

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