Friday, May 25, 2012

My Life Notebook--Robert Frank Dietz

We were at Andy's mom's house today and Andy was digging through some old papers and found this booklet.  It was titled "My Life Notebook--Robert Frank Dietz."  It was so interesting to see where Bob (Andy's dad) had been while serving in the military.  The interesting thing is that we've been to the places he mentions in China.  In fact, when we first started going to China, Bob told us where he'd been during WWII. On that first trip, we went to The Hump.  The American military was still very much respected there.  I know many will find this interesting, but I mainly wanted his grandkids to read this.  A fitting tribute for Memorial Day weekend.

My Life Notebook
Robert Frank Dietz

July 2, 1919--I was born to Charles Aarund Dietz and Lillie May Huffer Dietz.
One brother Raymond and Two Sisters Dorothy and Helen.
I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming and lived there to age 7.

April 7, 1927--We moved to Gulf Camp 5 miles south of Borger, Texas and had to walk to school 2 miles east of Gulf Camp.  4th thru 6th grades.  
1930-1933--We rode a bus to Panhandle, Texas.  Because, 1 mile south of Borger was the county line between Hutchinson and Carson Counties.  Panhandle refused to send us to Borger School.  
1929-1931--During the Depression, I milked, fed and cared for 7 milk cows, drove the car and delivered milk before school and repeated it every evening after getting the cows from the fields.
1933-1938--I worked as an apprentice for Homer Hardeman Radio Service under the Radio Engineer for Radio Station Channel 4 learning Radio and Refrigeration repairman.  I continued to work for Homer off and on thru 1940 as time permitted.
1939-1940 1/2--I worked 1 year and 1/2 building Evaporative Air Conditioners and reclaiming piping from an old refinery and a few weeks with Gulf.  50 cents an hour.  That was good money in those days.  I bought my first car a 1939 Plymouth Coupe.
1940 1/2 July-April 7, 1941--I worked for Huber Carbon Plant at 60 cents an hour.  That was great money.  April 7, 1941, I enlisted in the Army and was sent to Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX and passed tests for Radio, TV and Air Conditioning with a grade of 98.  I went part way thru basic training and was sent to Ft. Sam Houston.
April 18, 1941--at Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX,  I was sent directly into maneuvers in the Abilene area, given tent communications truck running Teletype and Radio Communications between other units of the 3rd Air Warning Co.
July 2, 1941--on my birthday, we the 3rd Air Warning Co. were sent to Seattle, Washington.
July 4, 1941--arrived at Ft. Lawton Seattle, Washington.  I worked in the Air Warning Plotting Center for the West Coast 3rd Air Warning.  There are 4 warning centers for the United States.  2 on the west coast and 2 on the east coast dividing the nation down the middle with a central Plotting and Control Center coordinating the results of all 4 Warning Centers.
Aug. 1, 1941--I was provided a Jeepster and electronic test equipment and sent to Bellingham, Washington on per diem to install radio and telephone equipment establishing communications between outlying radar units and visual spotters relaying their reports to the plotting centers from Oregon to Canada.  The telephone co. attempted to get me out of the Army and put me in charge of their system at a good salary but the Army refused them so I continued until early December.  I was brought back to Seattle, and removed 4 Radar units from the west coast for shipment to the Philippines.  Our company was sent by boat on its way to the Philippines and my few personnel and I were to load the radar and heavy equipment in the next few days.  But WAR!!!!!

Dec. 7, 1941--"War"  Needless to say, we went to work re-establishing the Upper West Coast Air Warning System.  We got reports that our troopship had been sunk with our co. aboard.  However, three weeks later surprise and joy our co. arrived back in Seattle.
Dec. 10, 1941--During this time, I received my Staff Sgt. rating and sent out on a Training Cadre Teacher to teach communications to several Calvary soldiers, officers, and men.  Thru. Feb. 20, 1942.
March 5, 1942--I was sent with a battalion of the Calvary to Florence, Florida, receiving my orders direct from Army HQ.
March 8, 1942--I took one company of men and officers to Drew Field, Florida to Radar School.  Desiring to receive Radar Training myself, I attended the school.  8 weeks, 12 hours a day, and finished with a grade of 98.  I was still a Training Cadre Member receiving my orders from Washington.  I volunteered to go with this co. assigned to go overseas.
May 26, 1942--We were sent to Charleston, S. Carolina to ship overseas to where??  We could not be told until we arrived at our destination.  We were boarded on a cruise liner, The Mariposa, prepared for troop movement.  They put covering on all the carpeted floors and put three tier bunks everywhere but the staterooms which were assigned to Officers and noncoms Staff Sgt's and above.  The ceilings and walls were left as they were and they were beautiful.
May 31, 1942--We arrived in Bermuda and joined hundreds of other troop ships and the Navy convoy.
June, 1942--We arrived in Great Britain where other troop ships and British ships joined the convoy.  There were ships as far as the eye could see.
June 15, 1942--We went by Freetown, Africa and were told the Germans had a sub base nearby which was very dangerous.  We could see the Navy surrounding the troop ships and hear them dropping depth charges from time to time.
July 1, 1942--We arrived in Cape Town, S. Africa and docked there before going on to our destination.
July 2, 1942--My Birthday!  I was given a pass with all the men to go ashore.  People were standing on shore preparing to take each of us to their homes for fellowship.  I got a really nice family of three.  Their daughter was in our equivalent 7th grade and was already doing calculous and other subjects that we would be doing in the 11th and 12th grades.  I really enjoyed the day.  We were instructed not to be interviewed or mention anything that might give the enemy information of our departure time.  We had several Chinese Flyers who had received their wings in the U.S. and they got their pictures in the papers and our leaves were cancelled and called back to the boat.  Some were not able to get there in time and were left behind.  We went out in a terrible ocean storm and it felt like we were going to capsize.  The waves were completely over the ship in all directions.  Even the ship's crew were all getting deathly sick.  I got in my bunk and held on for dear life.  We weathered the storm and took count of our company and several of them didn't make it.
Cape Town is a beautiful city on a high hill.  Circular streets and buildings all of beautiful white stone.  It was a shame we didn't get to stay the three days of our passes.  The family I was with planned to take me by train several miles into the North jungles.  It would have been exciting seeing the jungles and animals they said we would see.  O-well.
July 26, 1942--We arrived in Karachi, India-our unknown destination.  We set up our Radar Unit on Manora Island which guarded Karachi's Bay.  We had a brick baracks and brick water fountain trough in which we bathed in the open behind the brick facing the ocean.  We operated the radar until we were moved to Assam, India.
Sept. 17, 1942--We boarded a narrow gauge railway going to Assam.  We went by New Delhi North, then SE to the Brahmaputra River at Calcutta and put the train on boats and went many miles upstream where we went ashore to another set of narrow gauge tracks which took us NE to the junction of China, Burma and India called Assam.  The Himalayan Mts. ran east and west and the Chin Mountains ran south between Burma and India to the Indian Ocean.  Between the two mountain chains was the valley called The Hump.  Our aeroplanes could only fly up to 20,000 ft. and they flew The Hump to Kunming, China, supplying the Chiang Kai-shek and his forces of National China who were fighting the Japanese along with the volunteer Flying Tigers American Flyers well known for their bravery and skill.  The Burma Road ran from the China Sea north along the east side of the Chin Mts. up to Kunming, China.  The Japanese were entrenched along most of the Burma road and nearly from East China to the outskirts of Kunming.  They then began to drive the Chinese and Stilwell out of the rest of National China leaving Communist China North China alone.  The Chinese and Stilwell were driven out along The Hump and along the upper Chin Hills into India.  We had found our radar would not give enough air warning and had to prepare for visual spotters to give us air warning.  Several days later, I volunteered to teach International Morse Code and trained all of the company men and officers, graduating all of them as radio operators able to send and receive 10 words per minute.  I also graduated about 25 men as radio repairmen.  We divided the men into 10 men teams with electric generators, radio receivers, transmitters and food, one cook and all could operate the equipment.  They were then sent in to the Chin Mountains for 6 mo.-1 yr. then two month furloughs to anywhere in India they wanted to go and back to the mountains.  We had 20 to 25 teams spread out from the Himalayas down the Chin Mountains guarding The Hump and south as far as we felt necessary.  We had one team with 25 Gurka guards deep in Headhunter Country in Burma only a few miles from a Japanese air bases.
The Headhunters liked the Americans because the Japanese were ruthless toward them.  They traded fresh-cut heads for our (of all things) tin cans from which they made everything.  The bamboo fenceposts were covered with heads.  It was gruesome.  In turn, they helped our team to stay useful to our air warning system.  We had blankets, food and medicines which other natives demanded but not them.  They demanded our tin cans!  Thru April 1944.
July 31, 1944--I was made Master Sgt.  I received the Bronze Star Medal per the following Citation.

10AF 200.6         A.P.O.  216,
25 JAN. 1945
SUBJECT:  Citation for the award of the Bronze Star Medal
To:  Co. 558th Signal AW Bn, APO 218.6
1.  In accoradance with Par. 1d, letter Hq USAF CBI, file 200.6 dated 3 June 1944, subject: "War Department Awards Policy" the following is the Citation for the Bronze Star Medal awarded to M/Sgt Robert F. Dietz, #####, Signal Corps by Par. 9, General Order 235, this headquarters, dated 29 Dec 44:
"For meritorious service from 1 March 1943 to October 1944.  As communications chief of signal aircraft warning organizations, he installed, maintained and operated an aircraft warning net control station and message center, and in addition carried out a training program for radio operators and repairmen.  His efficiency and intelligence aided greatly the operations of his organization."
2.  Request this communication be furnished M/Sgt Dietz.
By command of General DAVIDSON.

March 1945--I was sent back to the U.S. on the point system.
April 7, 1945--Arrived Santa Anna, Calif.  Met the family and had a good cry and stayed two weeks in the rehabilitation and being fed every kind of food you can imagine.  Restricted only by the reminder that the civilians were on tight rations and we were being cautioned not to waste any food.
1945 assigned to Hq AAFRS No 4SAAB the last assignment before separation and ran a relay station in the mountains of Fresno, Calif. during April and May.
May 29, 1945--Received Honorable Discharge at Separation Center Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX.

There's more to his story...but I'll save it for family.  Bob went to be with the Lord, Sept. 17, 2006.  His oldest grandson, Jason, wrote some memories Bob shared with him here.  

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