Birthday: June 28, 1925
Birthplace: Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Family: Arthur and Lorena Gaetke
Occupation: Consolidated Papers, Inc.
Branch: 43rd Division
Unit: 43rd Signal Company
Rank: Staff Sergeant
At the age of eighteen, Edward Gaetke, volunteered for enlistment into the U.S. Army. It was 1944. " The reason I enlisted is because all my friends did and I did not want to face them when they came back. I could have stayed out because my mother was running the farm alone. However, my mother was not upset with me since she knew I would not make a good farmer because I could not stand hay dust."
"On December 23, I was in New Guinea." New Guinea is to the east of Australia. "I trained for infantry in Fort Hood, Texas. After training, I was located to New Guinea just after the U.S. invaded the Philippines."
" While on the way I was placed in a convoy of a LST (landing ship tanks). During the journey, a sailor hollered `torpedo'. The torpedo just missed the front of my ship. However, the ship next to us was not so lucky. The ship that was hit was LST 637-Ugly Duckling. It cut the back end off just as if you would cut a pizza; the men on board did not have a chance. Though it was cut in half the rest stayed afloat. Within minutes, a ship was bound to where the torpedo had come from, yet when they came back they thought they had it, but actually, it was a whale."
" I was a lineman in the 43rd Signal Company `winged victory division'. Most men in my division were from the east such as Vermont, Rhode Island, and Maine. I took care of telephone wire and ran wires to three different regiments. General Leonard Wing always kept the Signal Company close to him. This was good physical combat I did see actual fighting, I do not know if I killed anyone. I once chased a Jap into a cave and than rolled a hand grenade in it."
"When not in combat I read. At night we listened to Tokyo Rose, she tried to ruin our moral but could not, for we found it entertaining. In addition, she always was able to predict what we were about to do."
" I lived in tents on cots. We moved quite often. We ate `bully beef'- tough canned meat."
"Even during WWII, the African Americans were still separated from the whites. "One time at lunch, a truck was blocking the Black Americans off so we could go eat first."
" While in New Guinea it was difficult to wash clothes, if we did wash our it was once a week. Moreover, people generally did not wash their hair.
" During my stay natives built. We called them (the natives) fuzzy-wuzzies because they had fuzzy hair. "
"When I was asked about nationality I was I would always joke saying I am German. I am more German than Hitler is. He is just a phony. My thoughts on Hitler were that he was going to do only two good things which were making all German dialects into one and to give everyone a car."
"When arriving at Luzon Island, the U.S. went so fast through it that the remaining Japs scattered off and hid. We got to pick out what kind of gun we wanted; I picked a big rifle."
" Once even the Signal Company got to carry a bazooka. My unit once protected the water supply in Manila; I believe that if we had not been there, the Japs would have bombed it. The lake-like supply was the size of Lake Wazeecha."
"Before we were told about the atomic bomb being dropped on Japan, our superiors took away all out ammunition because they thought we would act like wild cowboys."
After Japan surrendered ` I ended up joining the 97th Co. that was sent over to Japan. We stayed the whole winter in Kumagi, about 70-90 miles north of Tokyo. It was an airfield where they trained fighter pilots."
" The Japs that were in the war gave the mean looks but the citizens where halfway friendly. One morning in Kumagi, I was fixing some wires. Than suddenly, all the farmers were coming into the market square, so many crew and I went back to our vehicle. We tried to drive out but there were so many people that we dare not move. Than all of a sudden, sirens and Japs were driving in on motorcycles. After that a limousine approached an out stepped Hirohito, he walked right past our jeep and we got a good look at him."
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104