Cpl. Paul Henry Vetter
Paul H. Vetter was born August 9, 1917, in Michael, Illinois. He
was one of nine children of Olando Vetter and Seralda "May" Paige-Vetter.
The family resided in Carlin, Illinois, in 1940.
Paul entered the army in January 1941. He was assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion as a replacement when openings in the company were created because men from each of the letter companies were transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed. Since Paul was from Illinois, he was assigned to the company which had originally been an Illinois National Guard tank company.
When Paul arrived at Ft. Knox, he and the other men were assigned to tents instead of barracks. Being winter, the tent got cold at night in spite of its stove. It was during this time that he received his basic training. This training was done by sergeants from the different companies of the 192nd. One of the sergeants assigned this duty was Ben Morin of B Company.
Paul spent the next eight months training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. During this time, he qualified as a tank driver. In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers. It was on the side of the hill, that the men learned they were being sent overseas. Paul and the other men received leaves home and said their goodbyes.
In late October 1941, Paul and the sailed for the Philippine Islands from San Francisco. He arrived in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, 1941. There, he and the other members of the battalion were rushed to Clark Field.
On April 8, 1942, Paul lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Having heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks were guarding the perimeter of the airfield from Japanese paratroopers.
With the other members of the 192nd, Paul fought for four months to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. On April 9, 1942, Paul became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American soldiers were surrendered to the Japanese.
Paul took part in the death march and marched to San Fernando. Arriving there, he and the other prisoners boarded a train and were shipped to Capas. The POWs were packed in so tightly that when a man died, he remained standing. At Capas, Paul and the other men disembarked the train and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Paul was next held at Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prison. Paul remained in Bilibid until August 13th, on that date he and the other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. They were boarded onto the Noto Maru and sailed for Japan on August 22, 1944. On its way to Japan, the ship stopped at Formosa. During the trip, the convoy the ship was in came under attack by American submarines. One submarine fired two torpedoes at the Noto Maru. The torpedoes were set deep and passed harmlessly under the ship.
After arriving at Moji, Japan, Paul worked in an unknown mine. According to the military records held at the National Archives, Paul was a POW at Shinjuku Camp. During this time, Paul was beaten for violating an unknown rule. He carried the scars from the beating for the rest of his life. In Japan, his clothing began to deteriorate until all he had to wear was a G-String.
One morning Paul and another POW discovered the guards were gone. Not too long later, American bombers appeared over the camp and began dropping food and other supplies to the POWs. The POWs made clothing from the parachutes.
Paul and some other liberated POWs made their way to the coast where they made contact with U. S. Navy personnel. When Paul reached the Naval personnel, he was wearing a parachute. The Navy gave the liberated POWs clothing and cleaned them up. His first meal as a freed man was a spaghetti dinner.
Paul returned to the U. S. and called home from California. He asked his brother if his girlfriend, Minnie, was still waiting for him. His brother said she was. Paul returned home and was discharged, from the army, on May 10, 1946.
Paul and Minnie Haus married on November 6, 1945. He became a father of two children; Roger and Virginia. When the two were baptized, their baptismal gown was made from the parachute's silk he had found and used to wrap himself with while attempting to reach U. S. troops after the war had ended. The only thing that was changed for each baptism was the color of the ribbons on the gown.
Paul held a variety of jobs, including owning his own gas station in Godfrey, Illinois. He bought a home in Dow, Illinois, and custom built all the cabinets in the house. For the rest of his life, Paul carried on his back the scars from a beating he received while a prisoner. Paul's family also recalled that on his back and legs were scars from cigarette burns that he received from the Japanese during torture. He never told his family the story of the beating or how he got the cigarette burns.
On February 19, 1979, Paul H. Vetter passed away at 61 years old from a heart attack. He was buried at St. Anselm's Catholic Cemetery in Kampsville, Illinois.