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Wehrmacht waterproof gas cape pouch found by US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2000.526.4

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    Wehrmacht waterproof gas cape pouch found by US soldier


    Brief Narrative
    German gas cape pouch found by Sergeant Walter E. Hunkler, medical technician, 160th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division, known as the Thunderbirds, from June 1943 to September 1945. The pouch was worn on a German soldier’s chest, attached to gas mask pouch shoulder strap. Walter may have used it to hold binoculars. In July 1943, Walter entered combat in Sicily and then advanced with his unit through Italy, France, and Germany. Walter’s unit was with the 157th Infantry when, on April 29, they arrived with the 45th Infantry at and liberated Dachau concentration camp in Germany. There were nearly 30,000 starving and dying prisoners in need of aid. Walter photographed the camp and prisoners with one of the two cameras that he carried. Walter’s Dachau photographs are part of this collection, 2000.526.1. Walter was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery while tending the wounded.
    found:  after 1943 June-1945
    manufacture:  1942
    manufacture: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Roberta E. Hunkler
    interior, top flap, stenciled, white paint : gek / R1/42
    interior, top flap, snap sockets, engraved : PRYM
    Subject: Walter E. Hunkler
    Walter Eugene Hunkler was born on February 8, 1915, in Washington, Illinois. He was the second of two children born to John and Bertha Geiger Hunkler. His parents were born in Switzerland and immigrated to the United States. John was a teamster and day laborer. Walter graduated from high school and became a bartender. He married and had a child, but later divorced.

    After the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the US and a few days later America entered World War II. On January 19, 1942, Walter was drafted into the US Army. Walter became a medical technician, assigned to a medical detachment, 160th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Thunderbird Division. In June 1943, the Division was deployed to Europe. Walter went into combat that July in Sicily, Italy. As the Division advanced through Italy and France, Walter participated in several campaigns: Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, and Ardennes-Alsace-Battle of the Bulge. In spring 1945, the Division advanced into Germany. Walter’s unit was operating with the 157th Infantry when, on April 29, 1945, the 45th Infantry liberated Dachau concentration camp in Germany. They discovered over 30,000 survivors in the camp and 2,310 corpses on a train. Walter witnessed and photographed atrocities, the horrible camp conditions, and the surviving inmates. Following Germany’s May 7 surrender, the 45th Infantry was stationed near Dachau. Walter returned to the US in September 1945, and was honorably discharged as a Technician Fourth Grade in October. He was deployed overseas for 691 Days; 511 of them in combat. He received a Bronze Star for bravery for risking his own safety while tending to the wounded, as well as many battle stars for campaigns where his unit fought.

    Walter returned to Washington, Illinois, and worked for the Central Illinois Light Company. In October 1956, Walter married Roberta Leighton (1916 – 2007). Walter did not speak about his wartime experiences. Only once, in 1947, did he allow Roberta to see the photographs he took at Dachau before sealing them inside a storage container where they remained for over fifty years. Walter, 76, died on September 8, 1991, in Peoria, Illinois.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Rectangular, dark gray, coated cloth pouch with rounded ends, narrow side panels, and an overlapping top flap with a straight edge and angled corners. The flap has 2 dark gray painted snap caps sewn over short canvas strips for 2 silver colored snap studs on the front; both snap sets have interior reinforcing canvas strips. The exterior corners are reinforced with square patches. The back has 2 short canvas strips with interior strips sewn horizontally to the top and bottom.
    overall: Height: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Width: 6.500 inches (16.51 cm)
    overall : cloth, canvas, metal, thread, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The pouch was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2000 by Roberta E. Hunkler, on behalf of the Estate of her husband, Walter E. Hunkler.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 16:40:44
    This page:

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