WINCHESTER – Observing National POW/MIA Recognition Day in connection with the 75th Anniversary of World War II means recognizing a dozen men from Winchester who were captured and held prisoner during that war.
Three were natives of Winchester; nine graduated from Winchester High School. Eight served in the Army Air Corps while four were Army men. All but one survived to return home.
The first taken prisoner was Anthony Duquette (1923-1944, WHS 1938). He was serving in the Philippines with Headquarters Co., 31st Regular Infantry, when the Japanese invaded the Philippines after bombing Pearl Harbor. Moving from Manila to the Bataan Peninsula, the 31st fought the Japanese to a standstill for four months, while waiting for help to arrive.
But help did not arrive. Under orders from their superior officers, the 31st surrendered. Reported MIA on May 7, 1942, Duquette was forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March during which thousands died. He survived captivity for nearly two and a half years but was lost when a Japanese ship loaded with prisoners was sunk in the South China Sea on Oct. 24, 1944.
Tunisia was the setting for the second capture of a U.S. Army man from Winchester, the only one of this group whose capture was reported in motion picture trade papers. Former captain of the senior varsity tennis team, president of his sophomore class, and chairman of the senior prom committee, Lt. John J. Scully Jr. (1918-1983, WHS 1936 & Williams College 1940) was working as a booker for Universal Pictures prior to joining the army. His father was Universal’s Boston branch manager; his uncle William was Universal’s vice-president and general sales manager.
During the North Africa Campaign, Scully was with the field artillery. In February of 1943, he was captured during the Germans’ Operation Frühlingswind (spring wind). He spent two years in Oflag 64, a Nazi POW camp exclusively for officers in Poland. After the Soviet army liberated the camp, Scully was home in April of 1945.
Facts are few for these men, but a more vivid picture can be revealed of another Army man, Pvt. Arthur Tetreault, due to the citations which accompanied his Bronze and Silver Stars.
Arthur Tetreault (1923-2018, WHS 1941) was said to have been rather quiet around school, unless he was on the basketball court. If he played ball the way he fought in battle, he must have been a powerhouse.
Tetreault was attending college at the Citadel in North Carolina when war broke out. He enlisted on the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day and was inducted on April 5, 1943. After training as an aviation cadet, he was transferred to the intelligence and reconnaissance service and served overseas as an army scout with the 106th Infantry Division.
After arriving in Europe in Oct. 1944, Tetreault found himself in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. The Germans attacked the 106th on Dec. 16, 1944, inflicting heavy American losses.
“As first scout of the 422nd Infantry [Regiment] he led an American patrol of nine men in its baptism of fire. He killed eight Germans and caused the surrender of eight other of the enemy. When the nine-man patrol met a platoon of German riflemen, holding three American prisoners, Tetreault ordered his patrol to lay down a base of fire while he rushed the enemy platoon.
“Tetreault never paused in his forward movement, despite the stream of automatic fire which was showering over his body. His extremely deadly rifle fire neutralized an enemy machine gun position and he was successful in releasing two of the three captured Americans.
“For the next 72 hours Tetreault patrolled endlessly through German lines and time and again returned to his isolated comrades with valuable information concerning the enemy positions. This valuable information allowed American troops to withstand the terrific enemy assault at both Bastogne and Saint Vith, Belgium, days later.
“Pvt. Tetreault’s valor, courage and presence in the very front of the enemy onslaught inspired the troops to the heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice.”
He was awarded a Bronze Star, quickly followed by a Silver Star for “heroic achievement” against the enemy, “disrupting an attack by a vastly superior enemy force.”
While in the Schnee Eifel region of the Ardennes Forest on Dec. 19, 1944, “Pvt. Tetreault volunteered as part of a seven-man patrol in order to delay an enemy attack and to allow his comrades to execute a retrograde movement. As the patrol advanced, its members were subjected to the fire of machine pistols and a concentration of direct fire by enemy tanks and 88’s, shells bursting within five to ten yards of them and bullets striking the ground at their feet. While the hostile force concentrated fire on the patrol, their comrades were able to withdraw to a more favorable defensive position. The seven-man patrol charged headlong into the furious automatic fire and killed many of the enemy with their submachine guns and grenades.”
Wounded and taken prisoner, Tetreault was detained at Stalag 9B Bad Orb Hessen-Nassau, ranked as one of the worst German camps holding Americans POWs. The inmates, who reportedly numbered over 25,000, were forced to labor in agriculture, forestry. and industry. Tetreault was liberated on Easter Sunday in 1945. He returned home much decorated.
Also liberated from Stalag 9B was Pvt. Hugo Comita (1911-1996), a native Italian who became an American citizen in 1938 while employed as a leather worker in Winchester. He served in Co. F of the 397th Infantry with the 100th or Century Division. On Jan. 9, 1945, when Comita was captured, the 100th was holding defensive positions in France at the time of the Battle of the Bulge.
(Next in Part 2, Air Corps men taken prisoner. Part 2 scheduled to run on Friday)