Welcome

Thank you for visiting paducahsun.com, the online home of The Paducah Sun.

Calendar
June 2012
S M T W T F S
27 28 29 30 31 01 02

Click here to submit an event.

Missouri veteran chronicles losses on WWII submarines

BY JIM SALTER Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - Serving aboard an American submarine was one of the most dangerous assignments in World War II, with nearly 1 in 5 crew members losing their lives somewhere in the ocean depths.

Paul Wittmer of suburban St. Louis has spent years working to ensure that those men - more than 3,600 sailors - are remembered, including a book that has been years in the making.

Wittmer, a submarine veteran who turned 90 last week, has conducted research for eight years at the National Archives at St. Louis, which houses millions of military personnel records. He compiled biographical information on every man lost aboard a submarine during the war. The research fills six volumes.

The painstaking effort even helped correct history. The Navy previously listed 3,505 submarine officers and sailors lost on 57 subs downed during World War II. Wittmer calculated a larger number - 3,628.

The duty was highly risky, Wittmer said, and about 20,000 men volunteered.

"When you go on a patrol, you are essentially alone," Wittmer said. "You didn't have any support group, and you went deep into the enemy harbor. You rescued people. You plotted enemy mine fields. That was a very nasty business."

Wittmer has been active in submarine veteran organizations, helping to get monuments erected to honor the dead. For years, he wanted to compile their life history in a book, but much of the personnel information wasn't available to the public. Wittmer tried Freedom of Information requests, but to no avail.

In 2007, the government made public personnel records for all veterans discharged as of 1945, the end of World War II.

"Mr. Wittmer was right there at the door waiting for us," said Whitney Mahar, the archives' research room manager, who says 10 to 20 people show up each day to do research. "He's very persistent, very serious about his research and what he's trying to accomplish."

Wittmer poured through thousands of documents, compiling information such as the name of each veteran, his date of birth and birthplace, parents' names, service dates and dates - or approximate dates - of death. In some cases, he was able to find photos of the men, who came from all across America.

Wittmer, who grew up in New York City, joined the Navy in 1942. Curiosity led him to enlist on a submarine.

"They had the best diesel engines, and I wanted to know about diesel engines," he said. "I actually learned quite a bit - how to operate them and take them apart and put them back together again."

After the war, Wittmer worked as an engineer in New Jersey and Connecticut. He moved the family to St. Louis in 1978 to work at Ferguson Machine Co.

Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Your comment has been submitted for approval
captcha 7629a8ddd3204cd5a673e4130488c728
Top Classifieds
  • HAVANESE PUPS AKC Home Raised, Best H ... Details
  • Rottweiler Pups - Mom AKCRegistered5 ... Details
  • Downsizing Due To HealthAntique furni ... Details
  • PILLOW TOPmattress sets NEW in pl ... Details
  • Bedroom Suites New in Boxes. 6pc. che ... Details
  • ESTATE SALE SATURDAY 5/7 ... Details
  • 1 acre corner lot Kevil $12000 270488 ... Details
  • SEEING is believing! Don't b ... Details
  • Single wide with W/D, gas range, refr ... Details
  • 2009 H-D XL883L. Windshields, Aux. Li ... Details

Most Popular
  1. Batts best candidate to give citizens a voice
  2. ABUSIVE Starbucks suit a case of litigation run amok
  3. U.S. role in IS battle gradually deepening
  1. Paducah commission candidate rebounds from criminal episode
  2. Work progressing at Schultz Park
  3. Admission of photo remains unsettled in Jefferson's case
  1. Batts best candidate to give citizens a voice
  2. ABUSIVE Starbucks suit a case of litigation run amok
  3. U.S. role in IS battle gradually deepening
Discussion

Check out these recently discussed stories and voice your opinion...