Tec 5 Donald Andrew Dettmer
| T/5 Donald
A. Dettmer was the son of William E. Dettmer and Henrietta
Candenon-Dettmer. Donald was born on March 29, 1919, in Chicago,
Illinois. With his two brothers and sister, he grew up on 403 Harrison
Street in Lombard, Illinois, and went to Glenbard High School. He worked as a store clerk and was married to Georgia.
resided at 234 South Maple in Oak Park. He was the father of a
Donald joined the Illinois National Guard in July, 1940. In November 1940, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for a year of training. His National Guard company was designated B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
After taking part in maneuvers in the late summer of 1941, Donald learned that his battalion was being sent overseas. Sailing from Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, He arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day, 1941. Two weeks later he survived the Japanese attack on Clark Field on December 8, 1941.
During the withdrawal into Bataan, Donald was able to write seven letters to his parents. In one letter he showed how food was important to him and the other soldiers. In the letter he said, "I can hardly wait till I get home to eat a good home-cooked meal, Ma. For the first meal when I get home I'd like some spaghetti and meatballs, also beans. Remember how I used to go for that? Make a lot of it, because your son is going to be plenty hungry for that stuff.
Say hello to everybody. I'll be seeing them soon, I hope. Please don't worry, Ma. I'm okay and will continue to be okay. I could say a lot about these damn Japs but I known the censors would scratch it out."
Donald became a Prisoner Of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the Death March from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. The POWs were gathered in the schoolyard and sat in the sun for hours. It was from there that the POWs started the march.
Most of the POWs were already sick when they started the march. The first mile was an uphill trudge out of Mariveles. The POWs went days without food. The Japanese also refused to allow the POWs to drink from the artesian wells that flowed across the road. Those POWs who fell were bayoneted or shot.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each boxcar could hold eight horses for forty men. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar. With no place to move, the POWs who died remained standing until the living disembarked the cars at Capas.
From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base pressed into service by the Japanese as a POW camp. There was only one water spigot for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink of water. Disease also ran wild in the camp. As many as 50 POWs died each day.
Like many others, Donald knew that staying in the camp could lead to his death. To escape the camp, Donald volunteered to go out on a work detail. It was while he was on this detail that T/5 Donald A. Dettmer died on May 14, 1942. The cause of his death is not known. He was buried in Section F, Row 1, Grave 8, at the Camp O'Donnell Cemetery.
T/5. Donald A. Dettmer's remains were returned to the United States after the war in October 1948. He was buried, near his mother, who had died in 1946, at Mount Emblem Cemetery in Elmhurst, Illinois, on October 23, 1948, in Section 138, Plot 138 S½, Grave 4, in the South Parkway Section of the cemetery.