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Attacking toward Buna, New Guniea

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DeMers was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin on March 3rd, 1915. He had 6 brothers and 6 sisters. All 13 lived to be to adults. 1 of his brothers became a priest; 2 of his sisters became nuns. He jokes that the rest of the kids foundered. The town was small. They had different kinds of livestock. The food helped in the Depression. He remembers his dad working for 10 cents an hour. During the evening DeMers had to milk cows and take care of livestock. He recalls an incident where his house caught on fire. They had to get an apartment after that. Prior to the fire his old house had an outhouse; when his dad rebuilt the house it was remodeled with an inside toilet. DeMers was the first 1 in his family to finish high school. He had to pay his own expenses for school. His older brother owned a filling station and he worked for his brother. He would get 2 dollars for half a week of work. He also worked at a canning company and made 16 cents an hour.In 1933 he got 35 cents an hour. He worked at a store packing merchandise for a wholesaler. When he turned 18 he joined the National Guard. He earned 1 dollar a day. He enjoyed the National Guard. Demers helped regulate the milk strike of 1934. They learned riot drill. They never had to use their riot busting skills. DeMers went on a train another time from Milwaukee to Kohler, Wisconsin to break up a riot. The country was divided into 4 armies in 1936. The 2nd Army had maneuvers on Lake Michigan. When DeMers outfit crossed the lake they were in a simulated convoy with small fishing boats acting as the escort.

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They ended up at Camp Custer. DeMers had been getting promoted this entire time. He made 1st Sergeant by 1940. They went on maneuvers for the 2nd Army again in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. In 1940 they had to participate in winter camp in case they had to fight in Northern Germany.He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the National Guard with 2 other sergeants from other companies in the battalion.DeMers was a platoon sergeant. He remembers when the army decided to create mortar platoons. They had to learn from manuals. The first time he fired a mortar was when he got to Australia. Since DeMer's company was a heavy weapons company they were given a platoon of 37 milimeter anti tank guns however these were later transferred to battalion control.DeMers went to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana and then went on to Camp Livingston after Beauregard. They always worried about the morale of the men. Movie pictures were popular and they either could go to Pineville or Alexandria to see 1. Someone got the bright idea to send the men to New Orleans for the weekend. They brought everyone down and set up a tent for men to cook food in case they could not afford a meal. Men would go off and do whatever they wanted to. In the fall of 1941, DeMers was sent to North Carolina for maneuvers. They organized the division into a combat team. He was then told to drive to Fort Benning from Louisiana. He had the radio in his car on and was listening to Glen Miller's band playing Elmer’s Tune. The radio cut out and the country was informed about the Pearl Harbor attack. DeMers’ was the first wartime class at Fort Benning.From Fort Benning, DeMers was then sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He was sent on a detail to load cots onto a ship. They were going to be their cots when they got to England. DeMers never got to England. They were put on a train and they did not know where they were going but they were heading west.

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The train was moving fast. The train brought them to California. They brought the companies up to full strength. His company had 184 men. They were there for about 2 weeks. The field artillery units went to Los Angeles. DeMers and his men loaded up in San Francisco. He was in the first convoy to carry a complete division. There were 11 boats in 1 convoy. Their first night out in San Francisco they were at the dock and men were already getting sea sick. On the ship they changed the clocks as they passed through different time zones. The men could guess where they were based on the clocks. They were south of New Zealand and south of Guadalcanal. While they were sailing out that way they just missed the Battle of Coral Sea. They were set up in Brisbane, Australia. Their regiment was at Camp Woodsite. They had a big parade for the 4th of July. DeMers remembers getting to Australia on Mother’s Day. He was sent home in 1943 after getting wounded on Mother’s Day.DeMers remembers the 1st battalion being called on to ship out. They got to an airport and flew to New Guinea. His was the first infantry unit in New Guinea. They were told to reconnoiter a number of trails to find the likely route the Japanese would take. They were ordered over a mountain on New Guinea. When things got quiet they were ordered back down the mountain and were flown up the island. They got out and marched north. They hiked every day. The machine guns and the mortar straps that men carried the equipment with would snap when they got wet. Carrying equipment was hard. By the time they got into camp their equipment was beat up. Most of the men shed their rain coats. It rained almost every night. The men got used to being wet. When the sun came up the next day they would be dry in no time.

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They kept moving up trying to find the Japanese [Annotator's Note: on the island of New Guinea]. There was a supply line that was constantly moving. The 15th of October they spotted the Japanese. They could see ships being attacked in a harbor. They witnessed the Japanese machine gunning the survivors as they tried to swim to shore. The supply ships that were sunk left DeMers outfit with no supplies.The next day they started to get fired upon. The Japanese snipers were everywhere. They would tie themselves to palm trees. They would never fall down after being shot because they were tied in. It was hard to know if they were shot. 1 day they were being attacked and DeMers was called up to the front line. As he was receiving orders the man who was talking to him was shot in the forehead by a sniper and the back of his head was blown off. DeMers was right next to him and nothing happened to him. DeMers went to his battalion commander and told him they needed reinforcements. They got pinned down 1 day by a machine gun that was blocking a trail. They tried to get the distance of the machine gun so they could knock it out with artillery. They wanted to try mortars under the orders to not waste ammunition. They set up a mortar and started to bracket the target. The first 1 was a perfect shot. It provided an open path, the mortar knocked out 2 or 3 Japanese. He remembers throwing hand grenades that the Japanese would throw back. They started throwing the grenades on a time delay so they would not be thrown back. They also learned to shoot the foliage off of the palm trees with a machine gun to expose the snipers. He remembers eating the coconuts they shot off of the trees. On the 5th of December in 1942 everyone was relieved off of the line and told to rest, shower, and shave. The next day at 9 AM they started out for a surprise attack. As they were moving up they stopped for a second and DeMers told his recon men to move up. A shell landed under him and he was wounded. His fighting days were over. The aid man came and picked him up. The Japanese had giant log bunkers constructed out of palm logs. They tried their antitank guns on the bunkers and the trees absorbed the impact. Tanks were brought up to knock out the pillboxes. They called in air strikes to soften up Japanese positions.

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When DeMers was wounded [Annotator’s Note: on New Guinea] he was taken by the aid men to the regimental aid station. The next morning he was carried by 8 natives, who they called fuzzy wuzzies because of their hair, 10 miles to the hospital near airport. To DeMers it had been the smoothest part of his trip.The doctor at the aid station gave him 8 cigarettes to give to the men carrying him. The nurse told him when he got to the hospital to prepare to enjoy something he had not seen in awhile, a nice bed. He was 1 of the most seriously wounded people there and he got priority on the airplane. During the flight from Dobodura to Port Moresby DeMers was informed by the pilot that the Port Moresby hospital was being bombed by the Japanese. He later learned that 1 of the bombs had landed right on the bed he had been sleeping in.DeMers ended up in Port Moresby at the 10th Evacuation Hospital where he stayed until 31 December. DeMers once fell asleep on a Wednesday and awoke on a Sunday. The doctor asked him what he wanted and DeMers told him a bottle of beer or some ice cream. The doctor got an oxygen bottle from a nearby plane and it helped him greatly. The doctor brought in an inner tube from a tail wheel and gave it to DeMers so he could lay in it. It helped him with soreness. On December 31st a plane came in and he was told he was too sick to fly. He had to wait for a hospital ship. 1 of his buddies got him a dish of ice cream for dinner 1 night. He was constantly getting IV's so he was never hungry. DeMers was sent to Australia to get better. The government notified his parents that he had been wounded. DeMers assured his family that he was fine. Later on he got a letter from his parents who said they received a letter about his progress. His mom was concerned. He was skin and bones, but during his recovery he got strong enough to get in a wheelchair. When he got home he got a haircut. He visited his old barber. His barber thought he had lost his legs; the barber was glad to see him walking. DeMers went back to the hospital and met his future wife there. He went through a lot of hospitals after he came in from San Francisco. He met his wife in Clinton, Iowa. He was sent to Alabama and he immediately requested to go back to Iowa; when he went back he gave his wife to be a diamond engagement ring. He does not remember being in much pain. He was constantly infected, he ran a temperature of 108; he was supposed to be dead at 106.

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Prior to landing in New Guinea DeMers' unit was never given any jungle training. In Australia they were trained how to survive in the outback of Australia. He had never seen the jungle until he got into combat. His unit was at full strength when they got to Australia. In Australia men who were deemed not fit for combat were allowed to be transferred out. He remembers 1 kid getting transferred to a quartermaster outfit. DeMers recalls the supply shortages that occurred and the trouble that was caused by the leather straps that broke. When the supply ships were bombed they had trouble getting food and that is why they ate coconuts. They received food and help from the natives. The natives who worked for the army were each given a can of bully-beef per day just like the soldiers were. The soldiers were being issued Australian rations. They got bully-beef regularly and even once got cabbage. The cabbage had been in North Africa prior to getting to New Guinea. The cabbage smelled so bad none of the soldiers could eat it. The night before DeMers was wounded a soldier came up dragging a burlap sack. They were filled with D Rations, the chocolate bars. DeMers had the contents of the sack distributed to the men on the front line so they had something to eat. That was the last bit of food that he ate until the end of March. In the jungle it was hard to see even a few yards in front of him. Disease was rampant as well. If men were sick they would be evacuated much like the wounded. He only lost 7 men killed out of 184. He was wounded on 5 December. DeMers was wounded early in the fighting and wasn't there when the fighting got worse later in December. He was not aware of MacArthur’s dissatisfaction with the progress of the troops. His commanding officer was Colonel Robert McCoy.DeMers witnessed a friendly fire incident when a formation of bombers was trying to hit a very small target and missed. They ended up killing a bunch of soldiers. The Japanese did not mind getting killed at least they fought like they didn't care. They were all dying for the emperor. The soldiers couldn't get any prisoners. DeMers recalls 1 Japanese prisoner being taken during his entire time. 2 soldiers were tasked with delivering the prisoner to division headquarters. 30 minutes later the enemy soldier was dead. The soldiers claimed that the man had tried to get away.

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It took them 3 weeks to get to Australia in the convoy. When he came home it took 15 days.DeMers never had trouble with post traumatic stress disorder [Annotator's Note: also referred to as PTSD] . Both of DeMers' brothers served overseas with him but he doesn't know if either of them suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He remembers his recon sergeant being taken off of the line because of combat fatigue.DeMers felt that America did good by its involvement in World War 2. He notes the success of both Germany and Japan postwar and feels that a lot of good came out of the war. He brings up the subject of Hurricane Katrina and that even though a lot of bad came out of it he feels that a lot of good will come out of the situation and make New Orleans a better place for everyone. DeMers does not like the wars that the United States is currently involved in. He felt like the world changed for the better. He believed the country changed for the better.DeMers feels that wars are not good but sometimes good things come out of wars.DeMers believes it is important that we have museums such as The National World War II Museum so people can learn about history. He realizes that war is just as much about survival as it is death. He did not want to leave a widow so he never got married before his combat tour. When he got home he did not try too hard. He went out one night and went to a club in Des Moines, Iowa. He met his wife out at the club.

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DeMers met her and they danced, talked, and had a good time [Annotator’s Note: his future wife after returning to the United States]. He had a tough time tracking her down. It took him 2 weeks to find her.DeMers was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama and immediately requested leave to go visit her and propose. He left her options open. He gave her permission to marry whoever she found since he was going overseas, but if she did not find anyone, she was to marry him. 1 day she called him and told him that she was being sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama.DeMers and his wife purchased their wedding ring in Montgomery, Alabama. They married on Thanksgiving Day. They attended a dance at an officer’s club that night. They had a nice party.DeMers had given a talk to the medical units while he was stationed there. He let them know what was required of a doctor in a combat zone. They had to improvise.DeMers' wife was transferred to a station hospital and he was sent out to Camp Beale, California After he left his wife volunteered for service on hospital trains.DeMers' wife used to accuse him of marrying her just so he would have a nurse to take care of him. The last 5 years of her life, DeMers took care of his wife.He got out of the service in January of 1946. On his last day of duty he was told he was up for a promotion. He filled out and returned the paperwork but nothing ever happened.He had two brothers who served with him. One of his brothers was the platoon leader of the anti tank platoon. DeMers spent 14 months in the hospital and got a Purple Heart. His brother was taking care of somebody when somebody called his name. He turned his head just as a sniper's bullet hit him across the bridge of his nose. When he got to the medical station the doctor cleaned the blood off of his face and put a Band Aid on his nose. Then they sent him back to the front.Getting the Purple Heart doesn't make someone a hero. It doesn't take brains to get killed or wounded. When a person puts on the uniform they are a hero.DeMers had two brothers who served in his battalion. His youngest brother is the one who led the anti tank platoon. The other brother led a machine gun platoon in DeMers' company.The brother who led the machine gun platoon was never wounded but got sick. He was hospitalized and was in pretty bad shape. He was worse off than DeMers and the other brother.His older brother also went into the army so four of them served during the war.

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They kept moving up trying to find the Japanese [Annotator's Note: on the island of New Guinea]. There was a supply line that was constantly moving. The 15th of October they spotted the Japanese. They could see ships being attacked in a harbor. They witnessed the Japanese machine gunning the survivors as they tried to swim to shore. The supply ships that were sunk left DeMers outfit with no supplies.The next day they started to get fired upon. The Japanese snipers were everywhere. They would tie themselves to palm trees. They would never fall down after being shot because they were tied in. It was hard to know if they were shot. 1 day they were being attacked and DeMers was called up to the front line. As he was receiving orders the man who was talking to him was shot in the forehead by a sniper and the back of his head was blown off. DeMers was right next to him and nothing happened to him. DeMers went to his battalion commander and told him they needed reinforcements. They got pinned down 1 day by a machine gun that was blocking a trail. They tried to get the distance of the machine gun so they could knock it out with artillery. They wanted to try mortars under the orders to not waste ammunition. They set up a mortar and started to bracket the target. The first 1 was a perfect shot. It provided an open path, the mortar knocked out 2 or 3 Japanese. He remembers throwing hand grenades that the Japanese would throw back. They started throwing the grenades on a time delay so they would not be thrown back. They also learned to shoot the foliage off of the palm trees with a machine gun to expose the snipers. He remembers eating the coconuts they shot off of the trees. On the 5th of December in 1942 everyone was relieved off of the line and told to rest, shower, and shave. The next day at 9 AM they started out for a surprise attack. As they were moving up they stopped for a second and DeMers told his recon men to move up. A shell landed under him and he was wounded. His fighting days were over. The aid man came and picked him up. The Japanese had giant log bunkers constructed out of palm logs. They tried their antitank guns on the bunkers and the trees absorbed the impact. Tanks were brought up to knock out the pillboxes. They called in air strikes to soften up Japanese positions.

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