Walter Reed was born Werner Rindsberg in 1924, in Wuerzburg, Germany. As a fourteen- year-old boy, Walter was jailed for three days along with other local Jewish boys and men on Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, a pogrom against the Jewish communities in Germany and Austria characterized by vicious state-sanctioned, antisemitic riots. Following this incident, Walter's father and the other men were sent to the Dachau concentration camp for four to six weeks. Months later, in June of 1939, Walter's parents put him on a Kindertransport train to Belgium to save his life and opted to keep Walter's two younger brothers at home. After living in a boys' home near Brussels until the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, Walter and over ninety other boys and girls were able to escape to southern France. While there, the children (aged six to seventeen) lived in a barn and later in an abandoned old chateau named Chateau de La Hille. Through the efforts of his mother's American siblings, Walter was able to leave France via Spain and Portugal for New York in August 1941. Two years later, he was drafted into the US Army and changed his name to Walter Reed upon becoming a United States citizen in 1943.
When Walter was back in Europe in 1944, he was transferred to the Military Intelligence Service. While in the MIS, he served in the 95th Infantry Division under U.S. Army General George Patton. The main task of his MIS team was to interrogate German prisoners and civilians near the front lines. Dedicated to and passionate about his service, Walter was also a part of the U.S. Military Government's counter-intelligence section, where he worked to identify and remove University of Marburg faculty, a group of individuals that had been active Nazi Party members.