On December 7, 1941, the Japanese made a surprise attack and bombed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the U.S. into World War II to fight against Germany and Japan. Walter immediately joined the American Army. All immigration opportunities ceased at that time. The Lesses were fortunate, indeed, to have arrived eight months earlier.
Walter was stationed in France and England. He was first assigned to a medical unit. Later he became an interpreter for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), interrogating German prisoners of war.
While in England, he met a young Catholic woman, Joan Todd. When he returned to California at the end of the war, she joined him and they married. They had one daughter, Margaret Ann.
Walter’s sister Kate, her husband John and daughter Eva, and Walter’s brother, Ernst, also escaped safely to the United States. They, too, eventually settled in San Francisco. Walter’s father died in 1945 of a heart attack; his mother lived well into her 80s. His father would never discuss his time in the concentration camp, even though he was safe in California. German officers had warned him if he ever spoke about anything he had witnessed, they would find him and his family and kill them all. Walter’s mother, as she grew old and frail, would tell her son she could hear the Nazis and the Hitler Youth marching under her window each night, singing their songs and shouting, “Death to the Jews!”
Fifty years later, Walter and his wife, Joan, returned to Lüneburg. They were welcomed by the mayor. An article was written in the newspaper after their arrival, and citizens who remembered Walter’s parents and their department store introduced themselves. Several commented how Herr Less had generously allowed their families to buy on credit, and the son of a woman from a very poor family told how grateful his mother was that he always gave her a hot breakfast before she began her day’s work in the store.
Walter’s daughter, Margaret, still has the silverware, photographs, wedding ring and pocket watch her grandparents, Anna and Leopold, chose to bring with them. She also has Walter’s photograph album and stamp collection. Joan died in 1985. Walter died in December, 2001.