Mittelstaedt, Donald

Donald was part of the 161st SPC. In 1941, he received training at Ft. Lewis ROTC camp, qualifying in all infantry weapons.

He spent the summer of 1942 at Ft. Monmouth before going to Ft. Benning, then took part at  the winter Tennessee manoeuvres before shipping out for the Southwest Pacific.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lt on 28 May, 1942 and was transferred from the Infantry to the Signal Corps.

He joined 161st  SPC at Fort Benning as a ‘8530, Motor Transport Officer’ with 52 trucks and OIC of Combat Photo Unit 10, teaching the unit’s drivers cross country drives and convoy driving.

Donald saw action on every  island, including Guadalcanal, New Britain, New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon and spent time at Kyoto,  Japan, as part of  the occupation, serving as Photo Liaison Officer of Sixth Army.

He was shipped overseas to Noumea, New Caledonia, in Southwest Pacific  theatre. Combat Photo Unit 10 went to Espiritu Santos, New Hebrides  in May 1943, then later to Guadalcanal to join 40th Infantry (“Sunshine”) Division.

Their next leapfrog was to Cape Glouster, New Britain, where they captured Talesea and Cape Hoskins, isolating  the Jap fortress at Rabaul.  Combat Photo 10 next went to New Guinea to join the 1st Cavalry Division for the invasion of Leyte on 20 Oct 1944, followed by returning to Morotai island to join the 158th RCT (Arizona’s 158th Regimental Combat Team, also known as the “Bushmasters”) for the invasion of Luzon, at Linguyan Gulf on 9 Jan 1945. The 10th CPU covered the action of the 43rd Infantry Division, 6th Infantry Regiment, and 32nd Infantry Division as well as the 158th RCT to capture and hold the north flank, protecting the main force proceeding down the Linguyan valley toward Manila. The 158th RCT gained their objective at Rosario on 29 Jan 1945.

The 10th CPU  then raced down the valley to catch up to the 148th Infantry  Regiment , 37th Inf Div to enter Manila from the north on Avenida Rizal. The city was captured after a month long house-to-house battle, ending with the capture of Ft. Santiago.

Donald and his team then joined the 11th Airborne in Batangas Province, south of Manila, before being reassigned to the 158th RCT for a second campaign to capture the Batangas Peninsula. They followed up with the invasion of Port Legaspi and Bicol province. on 3 – 4 April 1945.

Donald photographed the 25th Inf Div in the Cagayan valley and lost a photographer there, hit by a Jap 47mm anti-tank, which ricocheted off a tank that they were following.

He was pulled out of combat in mid-summer 1945, and became the photo liaison officer to 6th  Army under General Walter Krueger (He was the first soldier to rise from the rank of Private to General in the United States Army).  Since the 161st SPC  had lost all its jump photographers when capturing Corregidor, he volunteered to take a quick jump school class at the 11th Airborne, in preparation for the planned invasion of Japan on 1 November 1945. While receiving airborne training, the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima on 6 Aug 45, followed by the Nagasaki bomb on August, 9th.

He did photograph Nagasaki on 23 Sep 45 on his way to Kyoto for occupation duty.  But first covered the surrender of Japanese Gen Yamashita at Baguio on 3 September 1945.

A replacement was found for him and he left Yokohama for a short 10 day boat ride to Ft. Lewis, for separation to civilian life. His terminal leave ended 16 Mar 46, but he had to remain in the reserves until 1952.  Somehow, he wasn’t recalled for the Korean war.

As a civilian, he worked for various newspapers as copy editor, reporter and press photographer, the last being the Las Vegas Sun. He later took a job as photo engineer with Pan American World Airways Aerospace Division, and worked at the Nuclear Rocket Development Station at Jaskass Flats, NV, for 10 years. He was often sent on TDY to Cape Canaveral, Houston Space Center, and even to the Aleutian islands to photograph testing of nuclear rocket warheads too powerful to test.

In 1972, he was transferred to North Dakota to start a photo department at the Army Anti-Ballistic Missile Base and spent  five years there before being transferred to Washington state to start a photo department  for the Navy’s Trident Submarine Base on Hood Canal. He retired from Pan Am in 1982, but took one more job operating the photo department at the  Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant at Hawthorne, NV for 3 years and officially retired in 1985.

Donald remained active and travelled the world, making 35mm colour travel logs to present to non-profit organization, retirement homes, etc.  Currently, he resides in an independent living home for the elderly.

He completed a WW2 documentary of the travels and adventures of Combat Photo Unit 10.

Don passed away on August 3, 2013 at his 94th birthday. I had the distinct honor to count him as a friend.

He will be dearly missed and thank you Donald for the legacy you left us!

 

 

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