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The Life and Times of Paul J. Dieter
(Company A, 353rd Regiment, 353rd Battalion)
My birth date was April 4, 1922, weight 13 pounds, born to Joseph and Lauretta Poppelreiter Dieter in the Township of Milton, County of Du Page, State of Illinois in the same farmhouse as my father Joe Dieter and his father Matthew Dieter were born.
St. Michael’s Catholic Grade School provided me with all eight years of elementary education not missing a single day of school for which a commendation was given me upon graduation. Then to Wheaton Community High School, Class of 1940. Many fond memories remain of friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Growing up with my grandfather’s trucking business and later with Dieter Trucking, trucking became an obsession. As a big six year old, driving cars and trucks became a part of that growing up. At the tender age of thirteen, I was driving cars and trucks into Chicago and back. After high school my job awaited me as a full-time truck driver for my father.
Clouds of all out war were looming with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. All the young men registered for the draft and it was a matter of time before we would become a part of the military in some branch. There were many going away parties and a particular one is most dear to my heart. My sister was hosting a party for a friend of ours in my parents’ basement. Another friend brought a new girl to the party. After dancing with her, I fell in love immediately and introduced her to my mother as the girl I was going to marry. She just turned 16 and I was 20. We dated for six weeks until November 17, when I was drafted into the Army. We wrote many letters back and forth until my discharge came on January 4, 1946. Three years and two months later we would see each other again and this time we knew we were in love. We married on May 25, 1946.
The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I tried to enlist in the Navy but could not pass the physical. Tried to enlist in the Army, same story. April 4,1942 marked my 20th birthday. The Army drafted me and I passed the physical. Our tour of duty was for the duration plus six months. As it came about we could have been called out for ten years after the war.
Left Wheaton, IL on the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin train to report for my medical exam and entered the Army in Chicago, IL. Left Chicago for Camp Grant, Rockford, IL. Here we were issued clothes and other supplies, got a crewcut and our assignments. The only place we knew where we were going was Camp Grant. After that we did not know where or for how long.
Many of us went on our journey by train through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington, then down to Camp White, Oregon. The mountains were so beautiful there. Funny thing happened. A Sergeant took me out in a truck, grinding gears, really a bad truck driver. He then asked me to try driving. After he saw me drive, he said I should be teaching him.
One day while on a training mission, he told me to turn off the road and follow a fence to the top of Table Rock Mountain, then an abrupt turn down the mountain, across the road, farther down across a river and up the other side to a field. The Colonel said I did a fine job. Found out we were the only truck to make it all the way without help. This was part of basic training in a new outfit, 353rd Engineers Regiment. Another of our projects was the building of a German Village (Combat Village) with fortifications for training in invasion tactics.
May 7,1943 we left by train for Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, California. On May 22,1943, left Camp Stoneman by ferry boat, pulled into San Francisco and boarded the USS Grant built in 1904. June 12, 1943, arrived in Noumea, New Caledonia A.P.O. 502. Traveled by truck fifteen miles out of town to the Dumbea Valley. During our stay, we built and rebuilt roads from narrow to wide enough for 2-way truck traffic including bridges. Built a camp for our outfit and two hospitals. New Zealanders also built a hospital. On the other side of us was a cavalry unit. They brought in horses from Australia and New Zealand for training in backpacking through the mountains called the HUMP.
January 4,1944, a tropical hurricane hit, destroying all our tents, the hospital we built, and other parts of our village. On New Caledonia we witnessed many people with various stages of leprosy and a disease called elephantiasis which caused very thick legs, feet and thick rough skin.
While stationed in New Caledonia, we operated stone crushers, gravel pits, hot mix plants, concrete mixers and lumber yards to build hospitals, roads and our camp. At first, we had 1-1/2 ton Chevrolet trucks and hand tools such as shovels and picks. Worked on the roads with D2 Cats which were minimal equipment. Work weeks were fourteen hour days, seven days a week. We slept in pup tents and were so tired that the only thing to wake me up was the bugle call. Then I realized I had slid out of the tent and was in a mud ditch with flowing water. Other troops saw us working on the roads and thought we were prisoners. Finally, more and bigger equipment arrived such as 2-1/2 ton 0MG trucks, bigger Cats, rollers and loaders.
We also went to a very small island, M’bo. We called it Snake Island. There we built fortifications similar to the Japanese on the island of Tarawa.
The medics wanted a live Coral snake to test the venom on monkeys. Snakes move very slow on land but very fast in the water. While walking around the island, which could be done in one-half hour, I spotted a snake on land. Carefully I grabbed it right behind the head with one hand and a few feet back with the other hand. Took it to the medics. They got hold of it and told me to release my grip, I could not let go. They pried my hand open, tested the venom on a monkey who died within seconds.
After we left the island of M’ob the Navy came to destroy the fortifications. First they tried the smaller, long guns after which they inspected the island and found bigger guns were needed to accomplish the exercise.
About the same time, dengue fever caught up with me. It is an acute tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes, causing high fever, rash, headache, severe muscle and joint pain, sometimes called break bone disease. Really laid me low for several weeks.
A Japanese two man sub found its way into the harbor at Noumea, New Caledonia and blew up the Nickel Dock. We worked seventy-two hours to rebuild those docks which were so important to shipping supplies in and out.
About the middle of April, 1944, the 353rd Engineer Regiment was dissolved. Approximately one-half of our men went to the 1177th and 1393rd Construction Engineers while the other half of which I was attached became the 353rd Engineers Battalion.
May 11, 1944, left New Caledonia on ship named LAOS. Arrived in Banika, Russell Islands A.P.O. 292 where we built a pier in the harbor and a rest camp for fighting men.
Left Banika on LCl 549 on October 1, 1944. Somehow the anchor chain became entangled in the prop and we had to jump to LCI 222 in rough water.
Arrived that same day in Guadalcanal A.P.O. 749. Here we built an airfield for B-29 bombers. When the first one landed it rolled up the steel mats behind it so we had to remove all that steel, grade the field and sprinkle with salt water to stabilize the surface. After a rain, the surface would become full of rivulets. That meant regrading and sprinkling with salt water again. Almost a daily job.
November 26, 1944 left Guadalcanal on ship SABIC. December 1,1944, arrived at Espirito Santo, New Hebrides A.P.O. 708. There we built another rest camp for the 27th Division of the Army. Here I began driving prime movers, big trucks which were much different than the Chevy’s and GMC’s. Sometimes I worked for the Navy and sometimes for the Marines, hauling big and heavy equipment. There I had a bout with Jungle Rot. It was so hot every day but the nights were cool. There were no women on the island so we drove trucks with windshields and tops down. All we wore were shoes and undershorts.
June 7,1945, left Espirito Santo on a Merchant Marine ship called Cape Claire. The food was rotten, we all got sick. Complained to the Chaplain (an Officer). He took his bars off and went through the enlisted men’s chow line. Found out how bad it was.
June 10, 1945, pulled into the harbor at Hollandia, New Guinea to pick up fresh food supplies. Left there on June 12, 1945.
June 14, 1945, stopped in Cebu, Philippines to leave off some troops. Left Cebu on June 20,1945.
June 24,1945, stopped in Batangas, Luzon, Philippines.
June 28, 1945, arrived in Manila, Luzon, Philippines.
From June 7 to June 28 we were aboard the Cape Claire and no shore leaves were granted until we reached Manila.
At Manila we made camp on the by-pass. We had more free time there than at any other time before but we fixed bombed out bridges and roads. One of our men was Spanish and he arranged a dance with some Spanish women to come to our day room while part of our band played good dance music.
There was also a very large dance hail and bar a few miles from our camp. Sometimes, I would transport a few band members to play concerts at other camps, hospitals, WAC’s and nurses’ quarters.
Once, at a concert, I became very sick with dysentery. Drove the band back to quarters but didn’t stop where they wanted me to. Went to the closest latrine, jumped out and ran toward it but only got halfway. It happened. The Philippine boy who took care of our laundry told the laundry girls that a caribou made the mess.
August 15, 1945, the Japanese surrendered!
October 31, 1945, we left Manila and many of our buddies who had more than enough points to go home. Points were calculated by a formula using months served in the States and months served overseas. During this trip on LSM 142 we encountered a typhoon lasting two or three days.
November 8,1945, arrived in Yokohama-Tokyo, Japan. After all the troop trucks were unloaded they went forty to fifty miles inland to the Tachikawa Air Base. Our camp was assigned to a Japanese Officer’s training school. Very nice brick building, best we had all the while in service but the building had to be fumigated. We slept outside on the snow for three nights. Snow was most unusual in Japan and we hadn’t seen snow for three years so most of our men had a hard time acclimating. Many got sick except me.
Under the center of the building was a tunnel for a fire. Above that, on the main floor was a very large bathtub surrounded by a tile floor. Naturally, I decided to try this out. A Geisha girl handed me a bucket of water to pour over my body, then a bar of soap to lather up with, then more water to rinse off with. When the lather was completely gone, I climbed into the tub to soak. What a luxury after three years of cold showers and makeshift bathing.
Left Japan December 11, 1945. December 19, 1945, arrived in Tacoma, WA and sometime later a ship pulled in beside us. There were the men we left in Manila with more points. They were processed out first because of more points. However, Fort Lewis, our processing base was packed so we could not get off the ship for nine days. After the war, the railroads went on strike and transportation was fouled up. Had to stay on ship for the holidays unless we had relatives in the area. Uncle Paul Poppelreiter lived in Seattle, so a buddy and I received three 3-day passes and spent them there.
January 1, 1946, left Tacoma by train.
January 4,1946, arrived at Fort Sheridan, IL.
January 5,1946, discharged from Company A, 353rd Engineers Battalion as a Technician 5th grade (Corporal).
Could not have picked a better outfit myself. Drove trucks and jeeps all of the time.
After 53 years from discharge, I finally received most of my medals: (Pending is a Philippine Government medal.)
The 353rd Engineers Regiment with all its divisions has held several reunions:
After arriving back home, I had to get reacquainted with my family, Rosemary, and the family trucking business. I did not have to look for a job since driving truck for my father was waiting for me.
Rosemary accepted my proposal of marriage and we were wed on May 25,1946. Our first child, Linda was born on July 3,1947. A major problem developed because my family, including us, lived and worked next to one another. While I was gone for three plus years, my younger brothers grew up and resented my coming back into their lives and the family business. Our second child, Randy was born March 30,1951. Our third child, Timothy, was born May 1, 1959.
In 1956 Joe Dieter and Sons bought a small trucking business in rural Naperville, IL. Rosemary, Linda, Randy and I moved to this location to take care of that end of the business. By this time, Joe Dieter and Sons had become a corporation. Stockholders were my father, myself, and my three brothers.
In 1967 I broke away from the family business and went to work for the Du Page County Highway Department utilizing my Army Engineers training. In 1969,I was asked to consider employment with the State of Illinois Department of Transportation as a foreman which I accepted. Retired at age 62.
After Tim entered high school, Rosemary went to work for the City of Naperville, IL., first as a clerk in the City Clerk’s Office, then to the Fire Department as an Administrative Secretary. She was dubbed Mother Superior to all the young firefighters. After eight years in this position, the Fire Chief retired. Searching all prospects, a new, younger Fire Chief from the East Coast was hired. At this point Rosemary decided to retire which was one year after me. When Rosemary went to high school in Naperville, the population was 5000. Now it reached 100,000. We decided to look for a place to live less hectic. My first visit to Door County, WI was in 1936. Soon our family was spending weekends and vacations there. It seemed this was just what we wanted. In 1985, we found a wooded lot very close to Kangaroo Lake and a beach area. Address: Baileys Harbor, WI. A dream house, chalet style in the woods was contracted for but we finished off the inside ourselves. The trim, doors and decks were my job while Rosemary did all the painting, varnishing and wallpapering.
This has been our home now for seventeen years and the magic has not worn off yet. We joined several organizations and volunteered for others. The local VFW post found me quickly and I have served as Commander many years.
We have been happily married for over 56 years. Our family has grown to twenty-two as of this writing, and all of them make us very proud.
Linda, our daughter, married Jerry Stark in 1965 and they have four children:
Jerry, Jr. married Lisa Wrobel in 1991 and they have two boys, Adam and Joshua and their Princess Sophie.
Erin married Paul Nolan in 1991 and has one son, Jacob.
Alfred who is presently engaged to Elinor.
Paul who is presently enjoying being single.
Randy, our oldest son married Sue Redmond in 1971 and they had one daughter, Sarah.
Sarah married Steve Steciak in 1999 and they now have precious Princess Samantha born in 2002.
Tim married Ann Michalowski in 1987.
Our children visit us often including the grandchildren and great-grandchildren which we look forward to and love to see them. Likewise we go back to Illinois for all the weddings, babies and other special events.
After RVing to Florida and Arizona for many years, it was time to relinquish the motor home and find an apartment. Now we spend January, February, and March in Surprise, Arizona and will probably do so as long as possible.
We love having visitors and our address is:
Address removed by webmaster for web version of The Dozer
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