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 the 501st.
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 this”.
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.