Korean War Legacy Project

Alfred Curtis

Bio

Alfred Curtis, as an 18-year-old, enlisted in the Marines in 1949 and served during the Korean War. Although he was dyslexic and dropped out of high school, the military put him through several different training positions, and he held various jobs while in Korea, working with high-ranking sergeants and admirals. He recounts landing in Korea, his first impressions, and the extreme weather conditions. He expresses continued gratitude to the WWII veterans who offered their expertise and  guidance to young soldiers like him during the war. He is proud of his service and applauds South Korea for what it has become today.

Video Clips

Headed to Korea and First Impression

Alfred Curtis describes how he felt when he learned he would be serving in Korea. He shares that hardly anyone knew anything about Korea and that he had honestly never even heard of Korea. He adds that he and other young soldiers thought they would go over and take care of business within a few months and be home. He recalls his journey to Korea, landing in Pusan, and the suffering of the South Korean people.

Tags: Busan,Civilians,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Poverty,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h4jEVNe7i0&start=135&end=300

Harsh Weather Conditions in Korea

Alfred Curtis recalls the harsh weather conditions while in Korea. He describes extreme cold and heat and recounts excessive rain as well. He mentions specific gear--rubber-lined boots and a parka--that kept him from developing frostbite during the cold months.

Tags: Cold winters,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h4jEVNe7i0&start=575&end=712

Thoughts on Service, Memories, and the Korean War Legacy

Alfred Curtis offers his thoughts on service and memories of his brother who served in Korea. He shares that his brother was at Incheon and the Chosin Reservoir and that he died from wounds he sustained in battle. He comments on the legacy of the Korean War, sharing that what the country of South Korea has done for itself since the war is unbelievable.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Incheon,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Personal Loss,Pride,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h4jEVNe7i0&start=988&end=1119

Video Transcript

0:00

I’m Alfred Eugene Curtis 83 years old

0:03

US Marines where you at you where you were for training and

0:07

before war what happened the reason

0:10

I was dyslexic all my life

0:15

it and they didn’t know much about it

and they didn’t know much about it

0:18

words I couldn’t like even spell the day but when my brother came home from

0:22

From Marine corps and bootcamp was tell me what was happening at that time

0:26

president truman’s fixin to do away with Marine Corps people realize that was

0:31

Graduating 1-2/week

0:33

Out of MCRD already but we told me what they did

0:37

I mean they’d knock you around and do anything they pleas

0:43

I had to see that so that’s when I joined

0:46

And went San Diego year to boot camp then

0:52

 

when did when did you find out that you’ll be going to Korea for the Korean

0:55

War

0:56

I got into bootcamp in ‘49

1:00

going to boot camp

1:03

I wanna go to sea school which is you know

1:06

thatI was only recommended for

1:11

but they decide to put me in a different category

1:14

so I went to a different specialization

1:18

communications a lot of different specializations

1:22

When the Korean war broke out obviously I was

1:26

I was right here in San Diego in that

1:30

well

1:32

my brother’s here too well i i didn’t

1:34

ever meet him there him the immediate seen him to Korea which the

1:38

 

first Marines over there

1:40

in do you interview with Ruben I think the many

1:45

times with how World War two

1:48

NCO’s and officers it’s a good chance

1:52

will have been defeated immediately that was very important

1:56

WWII hadn’t been that long

2:00

NCO’s were WWII veteran

2:03

combat veterans World War two made a big difference

2:06

when you’re eighteen 18 years old you have no idea what’s really going on

2:15

when you first heard that you’ll be going to Korea

2:17

how do you feel did you have like an idea what it would be like

2:22

Well first off don’t think hardly anybody knew anything about Korea

2:25

obviously

2:28

World War I was growing up during that time you only heard about the Japanese and also

2:35

the germans the last two years world war two hours in Oak Ridge Tennessee

2:41

atom bomb

2:42

have a badge on to

2:46

it was calls top secret that time so we came out to california

2:51

like right between the germans in japan surrendered

2:55

thousand people

2:59

And so

3:03

The Marine Corps with

3:06

I had no idea never heard of Korea before

3:09

with you you know source something different

3:13

in obviously been young

3:16

in being a young Marine you or make you think well we’ll get over there and

3:20

we’ll take your everything

3:21

couple months and be back home you know obsessed with both

3:25

 

think we did so uh

3:30

when I went to Korea a the to be up to san francisco put me on

3:35

I don’t remember the name exactly

3:38

Dyslexic you remembered America advanced very good

3:42

but I can’t remember dates and places so

3:45

I know that

3:49

went to yokohama from there went to

3:53

at the Tokyo to train Sassabo?

3:56

like a lot of people the bridge on a long ferry

4:00

take to Pusan signs but the old place

4:04

open that within controlled by the north koreans that time

4:09

it was my first experience being over there

4:12

ya then when you first got there what was your impression

4:18

my first impression I’ll never forget it

4:21

 

was a little boy

4:36

I understand a lot more

4:39

Civilians and kids who suffered

4:46

I adapt to stuff very quickly I accept stuff

4:51

nothing bothers me but the

4:54

the people in South Korea they suffered

5:02

what was your living conditions like is

5:06

I was specially training

5:10

Couldn’t spell HS dropout immediately

5:15

put me to a lotta training

5:19

undercover sting I was teaching class

5:23

by two hundred people from high school dropouts college

5:26

graduates but don’t forget

5:30

when it started they decide to send me to Korea

5:35

so in Korea during the combat period I did three different things

5:39

El Dorado which is the flagship in korea

5:44

his 18-year-old maybe big turn just 19

5:48

Working for 3 star admiral top level of Korea

5:53

with a small breed attachment all

5:57

moves all officers master sergeant they was working with the admiral

6:01

The marines here in Korea although out the youngest guy

6:06

their I end up typing up coded message for the admiral stuff like that

6:10

plus leader on I was in labor gunfire in close air support

6:16

Naval gunfire

6:20

either

6:21

talking ships to bring in back that time

6:26

Missouri there at the New Jersey different ones to where the target was

6:30

sometimes I’ll be on the ship talk with people on land

6:33

but I did mostly it was close air support naval gunfire

 

6:37

I’m close air support we’ll be talking to planes to bring them

6:41

on targets the very first jet thank talk to most time at that time it was

6:47

?

6:50

The first jet I talked to first gen

6:54

talk to he didn’t you

6:57

flamed out just let everything go any and he crashed

7:00

now I don’t know exact words that was on the west side

7:04

up Korea in the mud flats called up Val on

7:07

100’s of yards can’t see the ocean

7:11

so I was involved in lots of things

7:14

different things you know was with special attachments and so I never knew

7:19

where I was there where was going you know

7:21

remember the name to cities I do member

7:25

 

Pusan and Seoul on but all the other little and Incheon

7:30

towns and villages was not in there at that time

7:32

nothin you know that seemed like every time with you

7:37

you move back and forth the civilians had to

7:40

go back and forth to you been so you can imagine what they went through

7:44

so did you have some interaction that the Koreans there

7:48

yes we worked with the

7:52

Korean Marines at times

7:57

we worked with the the British, the New Zealanders

8:00

the turks there are the meanest sons of guns because

8:04

they been

8:05

fighting among themselves for centuries World War two is all real fighters

8:09

they was me you did so

8:13

 

 

we work the ROK which is a the Korean army too

8:16

but when you’re very young you just do what you’re told

8:21

you know where we go and where we went

8:24

I have no idea just like or do I think did you

8:30

did you have any I’m Korean civilians

8:34

that you took in to help them or certain people

8:38

every now and then that was see that a lot of people would help

8:42

you you are young or so

8:45

I get there that way do stuff

8:49

what I was amazed house they picked up

8:52

English in no time they could speak better than I could

8:55

I could on me

9:00

What Korea has done since the Korean War is

9:03

unbelievable their world power

 

9:06

Is a lot to be proud of

9:09

what they’ve been through forget

9:13

was occupied prior to that by the Japanese

9:16

it goes back in history so career was dominated by other countries

9:22

to countries for a long long time

9:25

and so there was nothing in there at the time when we was over there

9:29

you I mean nothing remember one paved road

9:33

what anything is your

9:37

both maybe rewarding your most memorable

9:41

and a favorite memory from the war if you have

9:49

up always been without realizing it my whole life

9:52

interesting in how things history do to me this is like the history class

9:57

have always been able to accept things the way they are

10:00

 

and a lot people can’t do that you know

10:06

how was it things are bad but you’ve got to accept

10:09

get along with that you know

10:14

I can remember that seem to me that the weather over there

10:18

was either the rainiest or the muddiest so damn cold it’s unbelievable

10:23

are so not you know I know there are some good days

10:28

see my it if you’ve been there you know it the season’s

10:33

when it’s cold it’s cool it’s hot it’s hot when it’s dusty it’s dusty when its

10:37

Muddy it’s muddy so it

10:41

Without roads imagine get back and forth get around

10:46

not that easy

10:50

10:53

maybe then your hardest time something make the most difficult thing that you

10:57

did there

10:58

I will see the hardness was the cold

11:01

we was very lucky

11:06

based on the 1st Marines there we just out of WWII

11:12

so everything we had was for jungle fighting

11:15

What saved

11:18

Turn down the rubber insulated boots

11:23

it so by their I’m pretty sure that save me for getting frostbite

11:28

in also they have come out partners I couldn’t believe us like who was the

11:32

world

11:32

warm so the cold was really really bad

11:36

you know but you have no choice

11:40

that’s why I think wars fought by young people

11:43

you get through stuff like it a lot easier

11:46

did other people get frostbite send

11:49

they have to me was go back home any other

 

11:56

Any other battle stories or stories during the war that you wanna share

12:00

like this says I don’t remember

12:04

The different towns out the stuff like that I still

12:09

I don’t know

12:14

to four weeks ago when they came here in

12:17

recognize all the combat veterans are in Korea

12:20

A flag in korea

12:24

I haven’t seen over 60 years it was wadded up

12:28

I have it sealed lay seal and I got a pressed

12:32

likened a group self gonna have another big flag

12:35

that was all the UN think about twenty-some old

12:38

countries in so I brought this up

12:42

And showed the person in charge of this he had to

12:45

 

Took several pictures together to does will be there was seen it

12:49

showed all the country’s flags of each countries over there

12:53

yet to participate

12:56

UN stuff

13:01

I do know at times the Australians and the English

13:05

fought all the time

13:08

you don’t get around

13:13

The one thing I missed more than anything else was milk

13:18

close to a Australian outfit and we crated them

13:22

Caulfield them for for some boaters don’t like that they have flown in

13:28

rerun so with these things you don’t you don’t happen you

13:32

by not smoking have never smoked so I was able to crawl

13:37

your affect the rest you get buy cigarettes

13:41

Every pack of sea rations you get five cigarettes

 

13:44

for different things so that that helped to

13:48

so I headed towards the sea rations where if you’re a smoker people do anything to

13:52

get smoke

13:53

then when did you return home

13:58

I came back

14:01

my ship we came to San Diego

14:06

I was out for two years I’m by two months

14:09

in other words the california forestry up there you know ago

14:13

Kept asking

14:16

I guess I’m and old man

14:20

I spent three years

14:21

in my time was up when I was in korea so they

14:26

extended for six months in time I didn’t know it but by

14:30

extend six months you didn’t have to join reserves when you got out

 

14:33

but after being out 2 monts started asking me questions

14:38

stuff and so I went back in for two years

14:42

in doing that two years I was or going overseas

14:47

was I’m I’m very good gambler

14:50

I’m a good gambler is gonna know the odds

14:54

I was going because wanna make sure I could where I could be good

15:00

lives in Hawaii instead with them in very many other

15:03

you going on

15:06

past like that but unit two years

15:10

then I was flown back and forth every three months

15:13

when three months in Korea two months or Japan

15:17

and then back to why for three months back to Korea Seoul with good stuff

15:21

of an three years Korean conflict

15:25

 

beginning to the end do you think about the Korean War often

15:28

know when I get out after a while

15:33

I start a business

15:36

And I ended up owning the largest

15:39

largest ambulance service in the county with many many meds stores and businesses

15:44

And can’t spell

15:47

but had good exec secretary

15:52

do in that time was the Vietnam War

15:56

and I did not know that a lot of people work for me was

15:59

in the Vietnam War I never thought about it but since I’ve been a veteran

16:05

this

16:05

for fourteen years first then we’ll hear stuff is

16:10

one like this all the time this is the first interview on

16:14

on because Doris asked me

16:18

Probably 2-3 dozen times

 

16:21

its it’s a it’s just part my life

16:25

you know

16:28

it’s a it’s a great way for person coming out of high school doesn’t know what he wants to do

16:32

do I think

16:33

Be in the service there was going to be a war

16:37

Short time after you but my

16:42

my brother was over there and he was involved

16:46

very first marine landed over there

16:50

From here called the brigade

16:53

they took off from was the north koreans back

16:56

and he was in Incheon and Chosin Resovoir

17:03

only from but he came back to the states

17:06

But he ended up dying from his wounds

17:10

 

 

He was wounded there last time so badly and had to stay in Japan

17:15

Brought him back to the states

17:19

To a hospital

17:22

That then he died from his wounds

17:25

what’s his name his name was John Curtis

17:31

Was only 13 mos in

17:33

all these men who fought in who served in the war

17:36

its just incredible in your own words

17:40

if you can just describe it in just a few words this

17:43

this legacy that guys it have made and created

17:47

how how can you describe it what is it to you what does this mean to you

17:52

well since I’ve been here billion Bob is a different thing the south koreans done

17:58

this honored us you know I’m the military

18:01

Ship

 

18:04

all the Korean veterans down to the convention center in

18:08

A lot of things for us the civilians have done a lot of the same

18:12

we just got through with another thing in other words

18:15

there so grateful a lot of people improve in Korea

18:20

look every buy living over there right now they don’t remember the war

18:24

we maybe they do if they’ve seen pictures and stuff

18:28

no was our country has done such a short period of time

18:31

unbelievable but other countries has not done that

18:35

South Koreans are very smart people

18:42

the Japanese same we’ve been you know Japan there

18:46

When I took the train

18:49

To tet a ferry to Pusan and Sasaboo

18:53

I go through

18:56

I remember on train I looked up

19:00

everything was destroyed

19:03

he was here in as it is impossible I was rope bridge Hiroshima

19:07

when they dropped it first atom bombs were made a lot of tests

19:11

in the said no one people live in this town

19:15

for 100 years answer why we driving through a

19:18

Right in the middle of it in a short period of time

19:23

In WWII because the Korean conflicts

19:26

they must work a lot about that so

19:30

I remember sometimes I had opportunity

19:35

to be in places were

19:40

some Korean army generals on making up with more money is important to Sergeants and Corporals in battles in

19:45

in the Marine Corps is certain battles

19:49

they want to use the atom bomb you know obviously

19:53

 

resolves with people

19:57

in there were no obviously could really so that was interested

20:02

the interaction I had with different outfits and different people

20:05

yours time you for education

20:09

this is history and go to bed where on

20:13

you still history you any other message that you wanna

20:20

share with people they’ll be watching this later on a

20:24

well

20:27

have told you like think movement in

20:31

any other veterans that helped us out

20:35

World War two without their support at that time

20:38

I have no idea what we have were happened made a big difference

20:43

nothing like experience when you’re eighteen 18 years old

20:47

in don’t forget this happened so fast a lot

20:50

 

live a normal life in some town months later

20:54

there right middle of conflict and stuff

20:58

And seeing things that they never dreamed and

21:02

but I’ve always been able to adapt to a situation immediately 21:07

21:07

helped me throughout my professional career to know

21:11

Korean people have been very grateful what we did

21:15

times going will be nobody there members that

21:18

go pictures something like that and I think minutes lastly we hear

21:24

the honors for your want to know lucky young people

21:29

obviously I think in Seoul and Incheon

21:33

doesn’t rely background history what we done to that country

21:37

it was well this guy just came forward

21:41

he recognizes all the people in combat

21:44

in every country you I think it’s great

 

21:47

can you explain what the well every year

21:51

Veterans Affairs and everyone’s had golden age game

21:56

veteran

21:57

the senior from home United States and Hawaii and Alaska

22:04

Ask me and over 600 people go every year

22:08

throughout United States to

22:11

Bring a picture what we looked like

22:14

In the service a current picture

22:19

been name similar face expression to

22:22

good

22:25

I didn’t realize how thin I was

22:28

handsome young man in here’s a another picture

22:33

A different picture in Korea not exactly sure when

22:36

I’m a buck sergeant a lot of people didn’t have buck 45’s

22:42

 

I was not a typical marine officer

22:47

22:50

But a marine officer is totally different than what’s on the ground

22:53

one was injured

22:56

And so to hear

23:01

went very well back be on the lines

23:04

In the army it to take a shower that was unbelievable

23:08

when you’re out there cold water and dirt don’t like that was great

23:12

so it we would

23:16

interesting time but it wasn’t all fun

23:19

it’s a think likely adapt

23:24

me too

23:26

project