Richard Francis Guetter
U.S. Army, Corporal
1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion,
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
World War II (1941 – 1945)
Richard “Richie’ Guetter, born in 1923, grew up in Larkspur, California. He attended Tamalpais High School. He was working for the railroad in San Rafael when Pearl Harbor was first bombed. Richie had planned to go into the Merchant Marines, but while awaiting orders, he was drafted into the Army in 1943. After considering a number of options within the Army, the young soldier applied for the paratroopers. Following basic training camp at Camp Walters, Texas, Guetter went to Fort Benning, Georgia where he made the first of thirty-five jumps, Following “jump” training, he went on to additional schools training in camouflage, demolition and sabotage. As a new private, Richie then took a train west and spent four days on Angel Island awaiting a ship to the pacific.
Later in 1943, as a private assigned to the 503rd Division, Guetter travelled to Australia to become part of General Douglas MacArthur’s drive north against the Japanese. Richie first saw action as the United States forces moved westward along the north coast of Papua, New Guinea in 1944. His first combat parachute jump was onto the island of Noemfoor. Private Guetter was part of the low level jump onto the small island which was completely ringed by coral. He landed onto a Japanese airstrip and immediately jumped into a crater. Many of his fellow soldiers were not so lucky; the unit took almost thirty percent casualties that day.
Later in 1944, Private Guetter would join the fight in the Philippines. Seeing action on Mindoro, Leyte, and Negros Islands, he would regularly serve as the platoon scout. Called upon to land on enemy shores by barge, Guetter’s unit met with Pilipino resistance fighters and was soon led on a five-hour march through the jungle. In an inland village, the 503rd Division dealt the surprised Japanese forces a significant defeat. It was during this action that Guetter earned the Bronze Star.
Promoted to corporal, Guetter was part of the force to retake the island fortress of Corregidor. In the summer of 1944, MacArthur ordered a combined parachute and amphibious operation which had Guetter making a combat jump once again. Richie spent the next few months attacking the Japanese in their caves and fighting off “Bonzai” or suicide attacks by the desperate Japanese troopers. In the end, United States Army engineers decidedly sealed up the caves and waited for the Japanese snipers to perish.
Following his service in the pacific, Corporal Richard Guetter returned to San Francisco in 1945. With over $1,000 in his pocket, he and a friend rented a suite at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco to celebrate the end of the war. After a few days, his friend headed home to Los Angeles and Richie took a bus home to visit family in Marin County. Staying with his cousin, he began his new life. Today, Richie is retired and resides in Mill Valley, California.
Narrative prepared by Frank and Victoria Pereira on October 28, 2012.