Pvt. Thomas "Tom" W. Teetor     


Mil# 36864640

Enlisted: 16 July 1943 

 3rd Platoon A. Company 643rd TD BN.






Born: 27 November 1923    Place: Cadillac, MI

Died: 17 October 1996    Place: Naples, FL

Buried: St. Johns Episcopal Church Memorial Garden, Naples, FL


Wife: Fay Teetor (Crowder)   Married: 20 August 1947

Children: Ralph, Mary and Catherine Kate


Father:  Ralph J. Teetor   Mother: Genevieve Teetor (Hopperstead)







Memories of War

Talking helps ex-POW deal with his pain


"It was Dec.1944, and the German offensive later termed The Battle of the Bulge had caused the hasty insertion of my Tank Destroyer company into Belgium to help plug the hole which was being punched in the American  line. We had been comfortably established In A chateau just south of Paris when a urgent order requiring our presence in the line forced a change in our plans. Bitter cold, gray weather and snow several inches deep complicated our every move."

For Tom Teetor, there are no good thoughts of these days of World War II - the months being held prisoner by German soldiers, the days of matching through the woods under gunpoint of his captors, the hours of uncertainty During it all The 69-year-old North Naples man still lives them, though. He still dreams about them, too. 'There's no good memories there," Teetor says, slowly and thoughtfully. "None." Today, millions of men and women - veterans of the American military forces – will recall their days in the service during wars from the World Wars to Korea to Vietnam to the Golf War. Others will remember days in uniform stateside or in less high-profile, peacetime assignments overseas. Over a period of more than 40 year, Teetor. retired foundry operator from Cadillac, Mich., wrote what he could recall his Journal called "Captured" about his six month as a German prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's last major attempt to turn back the Allied invasion of Europe. German forces drove a wedge, called the Bulge, Into Allied lines through the Ardennes  mountains.

Veteran Tom Teetor holds a picture of himself from 1944, taken shortly before he shipped to Europe for the war. Teetor was in the Battle of the Bulge and later was a POW in Germany.

On the Franco·Belgian frontier The Us First and Third Armies, under the command of Gen. George Patton forced the Germans to retreat by January 1945. Heavy snow caused major casualties on both sides of the more than month-long battle ·Was it a catharsis to write it down?"  He says "Yes. it was It really was. And I thought It was important to do." He says' he's  given his three children copies of his diary. He's not sure what they’ll do with it. He hopes they reed It – and learn. “I hope that someday all the kids will understand. And that It will be an experience that none of them will have to go through.”

Teetor Joined the Army in 1943 after spending two years at The Citadel, a South Carolina military academy. A short time later he was sent to France as a member of a gun crew in a Tank Destroyer unit. At the end of 1944, when he was 21 years old, his unit was sent to France and dispatched to stay at a chateau just south of Paris. Teetor and the men in his unit thought they’d get a break from the hot fighting that was lighting up Western Europe.

But after just one day of their château stopover, they wore sent to Belgium - and the middle of the Battle of the Bulge. The German forces had broken through and were threatening with Panzer tanks, American forces - the armored Divisions - Were pulled out and  the tank destroyer unit sent In. "We were kind of the cannon fodder," Teetor said. "Wo were expendable." When his unit arrived at its position on Christmas  Eve 1944, it was dark but because the enemy was close, the soldiers couldn’t use any lights. They had been assigned to guard a crossroads and had been told that members of the 82nd Airborne were surrounding the tank unit to protect them. But for some reason, their protection had moved on. "We heard these German voices say, “Hands up, boys, Hands up, boys” He said the Germans spoke softly to the American soldiers to make sure that the other troops nearby didn’t hear them.

“We marched single file with our hands on our heads, the guards beside us….. A thought flashed through my mind that if we ever would have a chance to escape, this might be the time,. I felt sure that I could handle the guard in front of me but I couldn’t be certain of the man behind me; no matter, I didn’t take the chance. If we had tried and failed, we would all have been dead.”

Testor said four members of his gun crew were caught and taken prisoner by the Germans. “You really don’t expect to be captured.” he said. “You expect to be wounded, shot, killed  …. we weren’t looking for trouble.” He said the prisoners were lucky to be alive after one of the Germans pleaded with his superior officer to let him try out his new machine guns and kill the Americans. The officer refused the request. “They don’t want prisoners at this point.” Teetor said. “You’re a nuisance.” Teetor said the prisoners were hit with riffle butts and poked with bayonets along their walk from Belgium to Germany. “If you couldn’t walk, they’d leave you behind or shoot you.” But the shooting wasn’t done until the rest of the group had moved on down the road. Even though the captured soldiers had no idea what was going to happen to them from moment to moment as they marched through small towns – from Limburg to Gerolstein to Muelberg – They could cling to one hint and hope coming from the German mindset. And it was one that might have saved their lives. “they’re thinking, Í could get captured, what would happen to me?”

“On we plodded to the next town, only to learn that the victims from the village just exited had flowed there seeking shelter, and there was no room left for us. So exhausted that we could barely put one foot ahead of the next, we struggled halfway up a mountain to another tiny village nestling in a hollow. … As soon as we stopped the householder came out with a steaming bowl of soup and a spoon in his hand. He was almost killed in the rush to get a mouthful. We were no longer men – only animal instincts were left.”

Held in a warehouse in a town in Belgium and forced to work repairing railroad tracks to allow them to move on in rail cars, the prisoners fought off cold, snow – and fright. “We’d get the railroad good enougt to use and then the Americans would bomb it,” Teetor said. After marching and moving from town to town, they finally reached their last stop – A prison Camp in Muelberg, a town on the Elbe River. There they joined up with other prisoners from places ranging from Great Britain to Canada to Poland to Russia. Adding more bodies to the camp made things even worse since quarters were even more cramped – with twd men to a bunk – and food rationed out even less generously. The same pounds of potatoes, turnips, beans and millet set aside for prisoners had to go a lot further now. “We were angry as hell, ”Teetor said, “But mostly we shivered.” But they were also informed . Some of the more veteran prisoners had fashioned a radio, which they would take apart and hide from their captors. While some prisoners would listen and takes notes, others would act as runners and carry the news of the war around the barracks. They knew that the arrival of Russian forces would eventually mean their freedom. “We knew the Russians were getting close because the refugees were streaming past our camp, in baby buggies and anything else with wheels. We could see them through the barbed wire fence. They were Germans fleeing Russians, we knew that.” The Gemans soldiers asked the prisoners leaders if they wanted to leave with them, offering up the idea of traveling in German company to reach the American forces. The prisoners – almost to a soldier – decided to stay and wait for the Russians to arrive.

“The Russians came in at 0600, riding across the muddy fields in back of the camp, on horses. It was a cavalry reconnaissance troop, raising all kinds of hell – shouts, trumpets, small arms fire. We had no fear when we saw them, but guessed they would treat us no better than our German Guards…”

Teetor calls it recaptured, not liberation. “The Germans came out of the guard towers and the Russians went in. There were chances to go out through the wire. They didn’t stop you.” As the American forces moved closer to the Elbe – the dividing point – the captured soldiers saw that it was getting easier to escape from the Russians who now occupied their camp. They weren’t too concerned with what the prisoners did. If soldiers ran for the fence, they didn’t shoot. There was no need to keep prisoners now because the war was ending and all Allied forces wetre moving in. That’s when Teetor and another prisoner decided to make a run for it, out of the compound and into the freedom. They headed west as fast as they could, catching as many rides as they could get closer to their American counterparts – and to freedom.

“Delousing, a good hot shower, all new clothes, as ours were burned, and a hot meal made us feel that the ordeal was over at last.”

The former prisoners, many sick, many wounded, many mentally ill, soon were flown to the coast of France where they were placed in what were called “collection camps” They were places named after cigarette brands, where just returning prisoners were placed before they headed home. Teetor was in “Lucky Strike” Teetor wanted to getword to his parents in Michigan that he was OK. They had been told he was missing in action, but a telegram from France would give them the good news. “I don’t remember what it said,”he said, “But I’m sure they were relieved to receive it.”

Millions of men and women served less painfully during their days in the service, Teetor says. But keeping the memory alive for those who had the prisoner of war experience is important and always will be, he says. He Says talking about what happened during these months helps. Teetor belongs to the Collier County chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War organization. He thinks that it’s important for veterans to share, to remember and too support each other. “This is a unique experience” He said. “I still have nightmares, about being beaten, about watching people you loved, thought a great deal of die.” He Returned to Germany about 15 years ago, but he did not want to re-trace his steps during the war. “Never. Just never.”


Veterans Day 1993

From the Journal of the U.S. Army - Pfc. Thomas Teetor.

By Brigid O´Malley

Staff writer