Date of Interview
Joseph DeMott was born on 2 August 1918 in the town of Big Run, Pennsylvania. The only child of Italian immigrant parents, he graduated from nearby Punxsutawney High School in 1936, then attended Indiana (Pennsylvania) State Teacher's College for three years, 1936-39. In the hopes of being a pilot, in August 1939 Joe left school and joined the Army Air Corps. Following Basic Training, Joe was dropped from pilot training and sent to radio school; upon completion of this instruction, he was assigned to the 22nd Squadron, 7th Bomb Group, as radio operator on B-17 bombers. Scheduled in early December 1941 to fly to the Philippines, the Japanese attacks throughout the Pacific forced his unit instead to Java, in the Dutch East Indies. During February 1942 Joe was assigned to the 19th Bomb Group. Here Joe flew several combat missions before being wounded and sent to a hospital in Malang, eastern Java, before that city was captured. Malang was captured by the Japanese, and on 8 March 1942 Joe became a POW. Joe remained a POW for forty-two months. After a brief stay at Klukstraat, he spent about a year at a former Dutch forces base; both these were in Malang. From mid-1943 to approximately mid-1944 Joe was at a big camp by Batavia, west Java. He then spent roughly six months each at a work camp in Bandung, in the mountains, and at Bicycle Camp, in Batavia. At each of these locations there were various work details; Joe recalls Bandung having the most difficult conditions. Joe was in Batavia when the war ended; he was liberated on 19 September 1945 and flown to a US medical facility in Calcutta, India. By November 1945 Joe was back in the United States; he was discharged in May 1946 with the rank of sergeant. Again a civilian, Joe got married (1948, wife Kathryn), and in spite of a vision loss problem due to his POW experience completed an electrical engineering degree from Penn State (1949). He worked thirty years for various engineering firms in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and New Jersey, the final sixteen of those in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Joe retired in 1979.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Joe DeMott" (2003). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 19.