Donald O. Dencker, Deadeye

Co L, 382 Infantry Regiment, 96th Infantry Division, U.S. Army

Leyte, Okinawa

1st Lieutenant 802nd Engineer Aviation Battalion



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"I "grew up" in the Army. I left home an innocent kid and returned a mature young man. It helped shape my future by the challenges and obstacles I had to overcome while in the service. I learned the value of education, working toward an objective, and it gave me a better future."

"I was 18 in June 1943: I entered the Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. I joined the 96th at Camp White, Oregon on March 25, 1944."




During High School Don was part of the Homing Pigeon Club, raising, training, and racing them competively.

Don's High Flyers

18 Pairs - 1940 Team


In Don's backyard about 1942. The family car is in front of their garage. The single opening is the wall was where his homing pigeonns entered their cage within the garage.

Don was graduated from Roosevelt High School in early June 1942.
During high school, Don knew he wanted to be an engineer.
It was while on a pigeon club event, half way to the event, on a street car, Donald heard the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
He was just 17 years old.  His feeling then was:

"Well, the Japanese asked for it, we'll take them and beat them. That was the general feeling of all the guys my age at that time. Every fellow realized that they most likely would be joining the service and they would fight for our freedom."

Don in Highschool  
Don a bit older
While He was still in highschool, around the first of the year Don read in the newspaper that the Army was forming the Army General Technical program (AGST) and if he scored well on this test he would have a more desirable job once he was in the Army.
He signed up to take the test. Soon an Army officer came around and gave the Army General Technical test to him and many of his classmates.
He scored well on this test, and it was just a matter of time when the Army would be calling him. So Don waited and ended up in a group with others who had also scored well on the test.


The book written by historian Donald O Dencker is now available for purchase.


18-year-old Don trained at Ft. Snelling MN
Military Service

"I guess I was nervous, I was determined to do my job and determined to not let my buddies down."

"I was 18 in June 1943: I entered the Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. I joined the 96th at Camp White, Oregon on March 25, 1944."

After graduation from high school, Don went to the University of Minnesota, almost a year finished, and he just waited till he was 18. Then he was called because of his test score and his age. He waited until the draft.

Don went into army, army specialized training waited until the army called up 500 young men who were in the Army now Infantry Batalion which included traiing and arms

Before long Don ended in Chicago at 100,000 crash course in Civil Enginer ASTP as the army needed me more in combat soldier to win the War.

The ASTP and 2000 other men were sent to Oregon. at Camp Adair. Don was drafted to the Army on June 24, 1943. He was first sent to Camp Wood, Texas for basic training in a batalion of 500 men. 20 of those men went to 96th Infantry Division. After entering the Army and completing basic training to attend the army specialized army program. In the ASTP class , They needed more men.That class, including me, was disbanded. Don took the intelligence test and scored high enough got over 100,000 almost all of them ended up in training.


Don (second from left) with three other young soldiers in from of the Armory in Chicago, Illinois

Don in Uniform


Don ended up in Rifle Company L, 382 Regiment, 96th Infantry Division, also known as "The Deadeyes." 


96th Infantry Division, Don replaced some soldiers who had been wounded or who had given their lives.. 2000 average were integrated, with the veterans.

Don became an ammunition barer 60mm mortars

The M2 60mm mortar, World War II was a light weight and quick set up making it an excellent indirect fire support for the infantry.

Don and lifetime friend Dean Rockman.

2000 average troups were integrated, with the veterans.

Leyte - The Largest Naval Battle in WWII
Dencker's Article about Leyte in the Deadeye Dispatch

Dencker landed on Leyte October 20, 1944 opposed by the Japanese where they changed their tactics. He was a rifle man in a foxhole.

Don says, "Many difficult times, nearly daily. You just had to to keep on going and you hope you would make it, what you did was just pray and carry out your duty."

Don tells the Foxhole Story

"One day we were holding out our positions. Hallister, loud artiliery was 150 yards short, the 2nd came and landed 75 yards. And I made an imaginary line, went right through my foxhole, the next one hit and we were right through, 3rd shell hit , so that's one of the worst incidents in my life."   I was pretty scared and we did our job, there were thousands of casualties. It was always hard."


Dencker described Leyte as a green hell because of the jungles and the rain. "It rained and rained and rained, and my fatigue uniform practically rotted off me," he said. "That wasn't unusual." In addition, many developed a skin disease they called "Jungle Rot."

The mission of the 96th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley, was to clear the most prominent terrain feature in the entire Sixth Army landing zone, Catmon Hill. Bradley's troops made their way through the swamps south and west of the high ground. The battle of Leyte was the first to experience attacks from Kamakaze pilots.

Okinawa - The Battle of Okinawa was the last great battle of WWII

Don Dencker, just after completing his service in the US Army

Deadeye article about the Rifle Company

Dencker served in Rifle company L (Love Company) fighting during the Battle of Okinawa from April until July.

During that time, the 96th Infantry Division, which was largely a division of draftees, participated in two major battles: The Battle of Leyte, Philippines, and the Battle of Okinawa, Japan.

Dencker was 19 years old at the Battle of Leyte, and 20 years old at the Okinawa.

The 96th Infantry Division was an Army Amphibious Division, Dencker said. "I guess we were the Army's marines," he said.
"I made the amphibious landing on Leyte, Philippines, on Oct. 20 1944. And the amphibious landing on Okinawa, Japan on April 1, 1945, which was the Easter Sunday actually,"

Dencker said. "We had a tremendous number of casualties on Okinawa, and we had a fair number on Leyte."

Go to this page on the 96th Infantry website to read Don's excellent article about his first hand account of the Battle of Okinawa. LINK


"Okinawa was, I would say, as tough as any battle in the pacific because the Japanese didn't try to stop us at the beach because they figured they couldn't do it," he said. "They were waiting for us in prepared positions with interlocking fields of fire on ridgelines that ran across the island. They concentrated their defense in the southern third of the island of Okinawa, and they also had the largest concentration of artillery, mortars and machine guns, that were encountered by American forces in the Pacific. So Okinawa was a terrible battle, actually."


Don was in a rifle company, which were the soldiers up at the front lines meeting the enemy head on. He used the .30 Carbine rifle, which was designed to be "more of a pistol, but less than a rifle."

Company L was familiarly called "Love Company" during WWII, therefore Don's book about his wartime experiences is named Love Company.

The .30 Carbine cartridge was designed by Winchester for the military in the early 1940s.

Retrospective Account of Don in Okinawa


On the left is another Retrospective look of Dencker's wartime experience in the 96th Infantry Division

His audience was the Daughters of the American Revolution Society.


Don Dencker and an Army buddy Bob Kelly standing in front of the Kelly home where they were on leave.
From the above Retrospective Speech

"This talk is dedicated to my comrades of the 96th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, Ever etched in my mind is my buddy Tony Nicholo. My last conversation with Tony was November 20, 1944 during combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Tony said, “Those guys that got hit today were lucky. I have a feeling that when I get hit it will be bad.” (Co. L had 3 men hit by Japanese machine gun fire in the legs that day) The next day I saw Tony dead, a Japanese bullet through his heart."

God Bless the Filipinos on Leyte for remembering us so well.

Where else in the world can an American G.I. Walk on a beach and be hailed as “Joe” by a 10 year old kid?

M4 Sherman Tank

Apple Ridge Battle Okinawa 1945

"By the Grace of God, I was one of seven that had been there every day and wasn't killed or wounded," Don said.

He was on Okinawa, when the whole division shipped out to Mindoro for rest and rehabilitation.

This is one of two 96th Division Cemeteries in Okinawa.

US battle casualties on Okinawa exceeded 3900 American men and Japanese military killed was about 90,000 individuals.

Click HERE for Battle Statistics provided by 96th Infantry Deadeye Historian, Don Dencker


Don holds a friendly little monkey on Mindoro

Click Image for closeup of Chip

Donald was on the Island of Mindoro for rest and rehabilitation when he heard about the atomic bomb being dropped,

He had quiet relief.

Korean War - The US fought under the UN against communist North Korea

Don Dencker also served during the Korean War as a 1st Lieutenant.



Back in 1951 after WWII, Don resumed his Civil Engineering studies at the University of Minnesota. He also took ROTC where he was an Army reservist.It was there Don was called up for the Korean War.
He was in the 802nd Aviation Battalian. He was doing Civil engineer work in the Army Corp of Engineer where they built runways for jets. Had both BS and MS degreesin Civil Engineering. They layed black top in the winter when the temperature was warm enough. It was good enough for a runway for jets during war.

Don, standing with a 96th Infantry Division small Army airplane. He is holding in his hands maps of camp.

This is a plaque was given to Don from his daughters, and may be seen at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas