Atomic Marines - Download
USS Curtiss AV4
Eugene C. Pratt
Operation Castle and Wigwam.
In all nuclear operations
in which the USS CURTISS participated, there were over 250 officers and enlisted
Marines who served in the Marine Detachments assigned to the CURTISS. If one were
to intensely scrutinize the background, military bearing, military achievements,
and personal character of these Marines, one would find that they, as a group,
were Marines of exemplary quality.
As one of those Marines, I count it
as one of my life's accomplishments to be able to call myself a "Curtiss
Marine". In 1953, three days after I graduated from North High School, in
Des Moines, Iowa I boarded a train and was headed for the Marine Corps Recruit
Depot, in San Diego, California. In receiving barracks, I would meet several fellow
recruits, whom I would be privileged to serve with through out most of my Marine
Corps enlistment. I remember clearly the names of Obie Jo Draper, Tom Hultgren,
Willie P. Smith, and Devon Keen. After completing recruit training in Recruit
Platoon 183, the above Marines and myself would be posted to Sea School-MCRD-
and then assigned to the Marine Detachment-USS CURTISS AV-4, to serve in Operations
Castle, Surfboard, and Wigwam
Once assigned to the CURTISS, my duties initially,
were very similar to all other Marines of the Detachment. These included copious
amounts of Guard Duty, special security assignments, and a continuous training
regimen. I was also assigned to a 20mm gun crew, and subsequently was a member
of a Quad 40mm gun crew. All of which were exemplary in their firing exercise...nobody,
but nobody, could out shoot the Marine gun crews aboard the CURTISS.
I was also fortunate to be selected as the Marine Orderly for the Executive Officer
of the CURTISS, Cmdr. Egbert, USN, I was subsequently moved up to serve as the
Marine Orderly for the Ship's Commanding Officer, Captain Jones. After, serving
in this position for a period of time, I was assigned as the Marine Orderly for
the Commander of Task Force 7.3, Flag Admiral BRUTON. Fellow Marine, Dave Matsler,
and myself would fly back to the United States with Admiral Bruton, at the conclusion
of Operation Castle.
After serving two years aboard the CURTISS, I was
posted to Twenty-nine Palms Marine Artillery Base, where I served in Charlie Battery,
1st 155 Gun Battalion. I was promoted to Sergeant shortly after my arrival at
29 Palms. In June of 1956, my enlistment completed, I was honorably discharged
and returned to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. Four days after discharge, I
enrolled in summer school at Iowa State Teachers College, where I majored in Speech
Pathology. By attending school year round, I was able to complete four years of
college in three years. ( Another example of acquired Marine tenacity).
Upon graduating from college in 1959, I joined the staff as a speech pathologist
for a three county special education unit. I also continued my education by enrolling
in a graduate program in Speech Pathology at the University of Iowa, and later
at the University of Minnesota, to continue my studies in Speech Pathology and
Audiology. It was during these graduate studies that I felt I could positivly
impact the lives of more disabled children if I enrolled in a graduate program
of Special Education Administration. I completed this program with a Masters Degree
in 1968. I was appointed Director of Special Education in the same Special Education
Unit in which I was employed in that same year. I would continue to serve as a
Special Education Administrator in a very large 8 county Area Education Agency
in northeast Iowa, until 1996, when I would retired after 37 years of service
to Iowa's disabled children.
Many times during those years I would wonder,
"What had become of all those Marines I served with aboard the CURTISS. One
evening in 1998, my phone rang, and Sgt. John Riggins, asked if I would join a
group of Curtiss Marines meeting in San Diego, for a reunion. From that point
on my life was once again impacted by not only Marines I served with during my
posting on the CURTISS, but many other fine Marines whom I would meet from other
nuclear operations, who also served on the CURTISS.
It goes without
saying, that the Marines who served in the Marine Detachments aboard the CURTISS
were an exemplary group of men. Most were driven by an intrinsic desire to achieve
far beyond the expectations of their Officers and NCOs. This motivation would
carry them on to contribute significantly to a variety of professional and personal
achievements in both the civilian and military communities. It is to all the Marines
who are now referred to as "Curtiss Marines" that I am proud to call
my brothers. We Curtiss Marines are a part of a unique brotherhood forged in nuclear
security service aboard an outstanding and proud ship of the United States Navy....
the USS CURTISS AV-4.
Sgt. Gene Pratt, USMC
[1954-56] Ops. Castle, Surfboard, Wigwam
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Marines - Download
Wigwam, and Dominic
Joe Stallings firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000
1953 and 54, I was assigned to the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Curtiss (AV-4),
at that time it was the flag ship of the Atomic Energy Commission. We Marines
worked with the FBI as Security Guards over the Hydrogen Bombs stowed aboard the
Curtiss and as Security Guards controlling access to the barges where the bombs
were prepared for detonation.
All Marines aboard the USS Curtiss
had both "Top Secret" and "Q" clearances. While the Curtiss
and the Marine Detachment were involved in all of the Atomic Tests in the Pacific,
I was only involved in Operation Castle at Bikini Atoll and Operation Wigwam off
the California coast.
After my tour of duty aboard the Curtiss, I was again very
privileged to be assigned to Embassy Duty. After training under the FBI at Quantico,
Virginia, I was assigned to the American Embassy in Paris, France, for one year
and one year at the Embassy in Madrid, Spain, where my knowledge of Spanish was
put to some use. As an Embassy Security Guard, I once again had a "Top Secret"
clearance, and for a short time in Paris, a "Cosmic" clearance in order
to handle classified materiel for NATO.
I had joined the Marine Corps in June
of 1953 in order to take advantage of the Korean GI Bill in order to go to college.
The simple fact was that I had been a Franciscan Brother for the previous seven
years, and after living those seven years with the Vow of Poverty, I didn't have
a red cent to my name. I thought that the Marine Corps would be my ticket to college,
and signed up little knowing what a fantastic tour and life changing experiences
lay head of me. I left the Marine Corps in April of 1959, from my last assignment
to the Marine Corps Cold Weather Training Center outside of Bridgeport California,
and enrolled at City College of San Francisco that Fall.
I graduated from
City College in the Spring of 1962 with an AA degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
My first job was as the Assistant to the Food Production Manager at the then new
Los Angeles Airport.
One of my cooks told me that the Government
was looking for people to work on Christmas Island during the last above ground
test series in the Pacific. I couldn't resist it and signed up for participation
in Operation Dominic, and out I went once again with a "Top Secret"
clearance, but this time as a civilian.
I was lucky once again as Operation Dominic wound down and
was not returned to the States, but was reassigned the Pacific Missile Range at
Eniwetok Atoll. I lived happily my next four years of my life on Eniwetok, but
then bachelorhood wore very thin and I "pulled the pin" (quit) and returned
to California, got married and raised a family.
But that just could not be
the end of this story. Three years ago, I got a phone call from Keith Cundy a
former Marine aboard the USS Curtiss, he explained that a group of men were getting
together again at a Reunion in San Diego. We Curtiss Marines have been attending
that Reunion for the last three years. Moreover, we now have our own exhibit in
the museum at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. We former Curtiss Marines
still stand tall and Proud as well as having done exceedingly well with our lives,
and we are living proof that "Once A Marine, Always A Marine"!
From: Joe Stallings email@example.com
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000
As to the Certificate from Congress, each one of us
at the 1999 Curtiss Marine Reunion (in Las Vegas) received our own and a signed
letter from Senator Lott. One of us is a major contributor to the Republican Party,
and it was he that pulled the strings to get us all this great honor. Yes, indeed,
everyone involved in the Test Series deserves one of their own.
During our Reunion in Las Vegas, our wives and we were the
guests of the Nevada Test Site. We were given the deluxe tour. We road on a very
modern bus with a TV screen for every two rows of seats. As we traveled the great
distances from important site to site, our guide not only gave us a brief history
of the site but also played videos of the tests conducted there. After all these
years of videos and movies of the tests done there, it was very impressive to
actually stand on the spot.
This years Reunion in San Diego was my favorite,
however. We were also guests at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot during our first
Reunion, but were very disappointed to find that there was no mention of us Atomic
Marines in the MCRD Museum. Fortunately, our former commanding officer, Capt..
Brannon was with us and explained that when we boarded the USS Curtiss to sail
to the test site, we and our ship disappeared behind a Top Secret Clearance screen.
the Tests, the USS Curtis was a "Ghost Ship", and for that reason, the
museum knew nothing about us. On the spot, I donated a pair of high density goggles
to the museum and the other Marines living in the San Diego are gathered photos
and other objects for an exhibit, and during this year's Reunion we were very
happy to gather around the new exhibit (shrine) to all of the Atomic Marines.
USMC - June 1953 - April 1959
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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download
Keith D. Cunday
5 Dec. 2003
I served on the USS Curtiss AV4 during the Operation
Greenhouse April 1950 to June 1950.
Our Primary Duty was to guard the compartment
on the ship, which contained Top Secret Material. Only certain personnel were
allowed to enter certain compartments. We checked badges, and the picture of the
individual that was allowed in the compartments.
We also escorted the bomb
to the island on which the test was performed. I remember on one test, I escorted
a bomb to Runit island.
I remember the first shot that I saw. I was
told to turn my back to the shot cover my eyes with my arms, count to thousand
four and then turn around to watch the mushroom cloud. Being engrossed of the
sight in front of me, not thinking of the sound that was to come a few second
later, when it hit me I jumped a few feet off the deck. Not knowing what was going
on. It sure gave you a scare.
The next Shot I was able to use the dark
This is an adventure that will be remembering the rest of my life.
Diamond Bar CA.
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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download
Operation, Castle & Wigwam
Dan was born in National City California. He attended
school in National graduating fromhigh school in 1951. After high school Dan entered
San Diego State College and then joined the Marine Corps in May 1953. During his
three years in the Corps he attended Sea School and was assigned to the USS Curtiss
(AV-4). As a member to the Curtiss Marine Detachment Dan participated in thermonuclear
tests in the Marshall Islands (Operation Castle) and off the coast of California
(Operation WigWam). With four months remaining in his enlistment, Dan was transferred
to Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base. Five days before he was due to be separated
he was promoted to Sergeant. Upon separation from active duty Dan returned to
San Diego State University where he majored in physics. He married Dorothy McCollom
in August 1958 and graduated from college in 1961.
a position as an electronic engineer and later as a project leader at the Naval
Electronics Laboratory (NEL) on Point Loma and retired in September 1989. While
at NEL (The name changed three times while Dan worked there and he has no idea
what they are calling the place now.) he started out working in oceanographic
electronic equipment and then worked on equipment used in Arctic research. During
these assignments he got in a lot of sea time aboard small naval research vessels
and spent a couple of months in Alaska including one six week stretch in the Eskimo
village of Point Hope.
Dan then moved into Satellite Communications
equipment where he developed the first shipboard Meteorological Satellite receiving
station and shared two patents for circuits developed for that station. The equipment
was installed on Naval Attack Carriers and provided valuable weather information
needed for successful strikes against enemy forces. During the Vietnam War, Navy
and Air Force pilots could evade North Vietnamese SAM missiles if they could see
them launched but not if they came through the clouds. The weather satellite information
was used to tell the pilots where the clouds were and this information greatly
increased their chances of surviving missions. Dan led a team that developed the
receiving stations and installed two of them on carriers deployed to Vietnam.
He later traveled to the carriers to check on the equipment and learned how to
improve the systems. While sailing on the Oriskany he learned the value of the
equipment. A strike was scheduled one morning and before the planes took off the
ship got a satellite pass, which showed that the target was clouded over, so the
strike was diverted to a secondary target. The original target was attacked by
Air Force planes that did not have access to the same weather data and they lost
five planes. The next day the Oriskany planes attacked the original primary target
under clear skies and all planes returned safely to the ship.
remained in the field of technology development, leading a team that demonstrated
the feasibility of communicating from a satellite to a submarine at operationally
useful depths using a laser communications link. He later became a technology
program manager for Navy Command Control and Communications systems at the Lab
and from there was asked to become program manager for all Marine Corps Command
Control, Communications and Surveillance technology. During all of his work as
a civilian engineer Dan was treated as an officer when he went aboard ship or
visited any military base. He found that this was quite different from the way
he lived as an enlisted Marine.
During the years that Dan worked
for the Marine Corps he managed the development of much of the technology that
was later used in the first Gulf was and in the present Iraqi war. For two of
those years he worked for General Alfred M. Gray who later became Commandant of
the Marine Corps. General Gray was an extremely inspiring leader whose highest
complement was that a person's work was "marginally acceptable" and
Dan still uses that phrase occasionally today. A great part of Dan's work during
those years was to talk to Marines about how they did their job and what they
needed to make it safer for them and then seek out technology that could be developed
to lead to better systems for the Corps. Once a technology was identified he had
to find someone to do the development work and put together an acceptable program
for the work. It was challenging work and a great deal of fun. Some of the technologies
that were investigated under Dan's management of Marine Corps work included low
probability of intercept communications, satellite communications, seismic surveillance
robotic systems, ultra violet communications systems, laser communications systems,
fault tolerant computer technology, and fiber optic communications to name only
a few. It was a very interesting job. After seven years with the Marine Corps,
Dan was asked to lead a set of field experiments in the Arctic and deciding that
he had done about as much damage to the Marine Corps as he could he accepted the
assignment. This led to two field experiments on the Arctic ice pack in 1986 and
1988 and several related experiments on naval vessels off the coast of California
during the same period.
In 1989 Dan retired from Civil Service
did some consulting work and then accepted a position as Director of the Defense
Conversion Center at SDSU where displaced defense workers were retrained for commercial
work. The transition to a university culture from military culture was not easy
for either Dan or the professors that he worked with. The program trained older
engineers to work in new technologies such as digital communications, Geographic
Information Systems, Medical Information Systems, Biotechnology and other tecnologies.
The problem was that most of the prospective students were senior engineers in
the defense industry and they no longer did hands on technology work so that their
skills were badly out of date. San Diego State University professors were able
to develop short courses in newer engineering fields that offered jobs in the
San Diego area and teach the newer skills the older engineers. During this work,
Dan never welcomed a new group of engineers to the program without seeing at least
one individual that he had known during his career as a Navy engineer. Over 85%
of these engineers were able to find new jobs and succeed in their new fields.
Dan finally retired from this work in 1998 and has enjoys his present duty assignment
The Leonard's have two daughters and two grandchildren.
They enjoy traveling and are heavily involved with Mission Trails Regional Park
and church work. Dan traveled to Uganda and South Sudan in 2003 as part of his
church work and realized how fortunate we all are to have been born in America.
Upon his return he was able to raise over $9,000 for education of South Sudanese
children living in refugee camps in Uganda and to purchase medical supplies and
equipment for those camps. Dorothy also does volunteer work for the City of San
Diego and the San Diego Unified School District. Two of Dan's favorite pastimes
are spending time with his grandchildren and getting together in person and by
e-mail with marines he served with so many years ago.
Dan, Camp Mathews
Marine Dress Blues
Africa - Summer 2003
Africa - Summer 2003
Dan in the Artic
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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download
Robert W. Mackenzie
Castle, Surfboard, Wigwam
family moved from California to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1936. In 1946 my brother
Roy came home from WWll after serving five years in the US Marine Corps. The same
year I went into Las Vegas high school as a freshman and started working after
school at the Clark Market located at 15th & Fremont. I later worked at the
Safeway store on 2nd street, which became the front door for the Golden Nugget
Casino. My brother had joined the Las Vegas Police Department now known as 'Metro'.
1950 and Korea changed everyone's lives. All my friends were signing up or being
drafted into the military. I was younger, that gave me another year or so as a
civilian. I joined the Marine Corps just as my Brother did and went through Boot
Camp in San Diego, California. Combat training at Camp Pendleton and then, 'it
was going to be Korea'. There were only two men in my company that didn't ship
out for Korea and I was one of those two!
I was assigned to
Sea School at MCRD in San Diego. Sea School was the oldest school in the Corps.
It was considered an honor to be chosen. Sea going Marine's were not only stationed
aboard the Navy's Capital ships, they were stationed at American Embassies all
over the world. They represented America and the Marine Corps worldwide. It's
all security, business, and spit and polish.
Ten months later
we boarded the USS Curtiss AV-4 in December of 1953 after working as members of
the Movie Platoon. The Movie Platoon was made up of the top Marines from each
graduating class at Sea School. We took 6 months filming time to make three training
films for the Corps and also for the United Nations. Knowing the Corps, they had
to be perfect no matter how many takes it took! The Movie Platoon went aboard
the USS Curtiss although not as a complete detachment. We were saddened to have
to leave behind many of our fellow Movie Platoon and Silent Drill team buddies,
and we did not know why!
After we were at sea we found out
we had been cleared for the nation's highest security clearance. Now we knew why
some of our buddies had to stay on the beach, the FBI or State Department couldn't
clear them. We thought the special clearance was for Embassy duty! We did remember
being interviewed by civilian's, one-on-one, during our filming days at MCRD.
We signed our disclosure agreements and that was that, no big deal. I was asked
questions like "Are you going to talk about anything you might see in the
future?" I responded " no " Then I was told 'you can sit here and
read this stack of papers or you can just sign here'. 'I must tell you that before
you sign, that you are signing away all of your rights',' Do you understand?'
I responded "yes", signed, then asked the next Marine in line to go
in after I left. We just wanted to hit the beach on liberty.
No one told us where our destination was or what our mission was (standard security
procedure). We knew we had "hot" cargo" due to the extremely tight
security on the Curtiss and also around the Curtiss during loading. We even had
small 'two man boats' patrolling next to and around the Curtiss for extra security.
Marines were also standing posts on the Curtiss, docks and on land beyond the
docks. We had a tight security wall all around the ship.
We were told nothing about our mission so the rumor mill was hot and heavy. There
were several Marines on board from the 'IVY' Operation. Those men had survived
the 'MIKE' shot at 10.5mt. They all held higher rank than we did and for some
reason didn't enlighten us.
We could care less about all
this 'Top-Secret' I spy stuff, we were all just hoping for another night on the
town before we shipped out. - We got our night on the town, some 5 months later
after the 'CASTLE' Operation.
Every Marine has many interesting stories
from the time we went aboard the Curtiss until our last operation. I was aboard
her for a total of 18 months, through Operation 'CASTLE' and Americas largest
H-Bomb test, the 'Bravo' shot - 1000 times more powerful than Hiroshima, and then
on Operation 'WIGWAM". During that time I was an honored to be assigned as
orderly for three different Admirals, two ships Captains and the XO.Curtiss Marines
were also on board for the Red Wing Operation in 1956 and Deep Freeze II in 1957.
I was discharged as a SGT. in 1955 after being offered Embassy duty or CIA. I
choose to return to my previous employer in San Diego, California in the retail
grocery business. Married twice, 4 children and now six grandchildren plus one
great grandson, six months old. My daughter Kari is very involved with the Curtiss
My family never knew what I really did while
I was in the Marines. In 1997 I had asked my daughter Kari, and granddaughter
Jena, to look on the Internet and see if they could find any information about
the USS Curtiss AV4 / Sea School Marines and/or the Marine Security Detachment.
They posted messages then one day they found a message posted by a Curtiss Greenhouse
Marine asking for all those who were on the Curtiss to get in contact with them.
I started to get phone calls from some of my old shipmates
in the late nineties. We had our first reunion (the never too late reunion) in
San Diego going back to our Marine roots. We have been having a great time ever
since, meeting at least once a year. The Curtiss Atomic Marines had their second
reunion in Las Vegas in 1999 and went on a tour of the Nevada Test Site. Roxanne
Dey (DOE) was so helpful as were all of the (DOE) family at the test site. The
tour turned out to be the highlight of this reunion. They really know how to make
an old Marine feel special.
Senator Trent Lott, then the majority
leader, said it best with his letter to the Curtiss Marines during our 1999 reunion
in Las Vegas. The United States called upon it's finest to perform some of the
most dangerous missions in military history. Your commitment to America in accepting
this tremendous responsibility is evidence of your uncommon patriotism. I am pleased
to join many other Americans who, with gratitude and respect, recognize your great
service to our country.
Fast forward to 2005 - The Curtiss
Atomic Marines are very proud to a part America's Nuclear testing history. We
are honored to have a spot on the NTS history walk. This means more to this old
Marine from Las Vegas than I could put into words.
senior class logo was painted on the front sidewalk of Las Vegas High School and
it is being fully restored. I have completed the circle from the Las Vegas High
School sidewalk to the US Marine Corps to the 'Pacific Nuclear Weapons Tests'
and back again to Las Vegas with my personal sidewalk brick in the "NTS"
history walk, a gift from my daughters children, two of my grandchildren. It was
quite an exciting fifty-five year journey from sidewalk to sidewalk.
| || |
Security Badge - Operation Castle
Great Grandson - Malik A. Carver
ATM History Walk, Las Vegas NV
Grand Daughter - Jena Chipman
ATM History Walk, Las Vegas NV
Movie Platoon - MCRD - 1953
Jim Chipman and 'Red Dog' Mackenzie 2001
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Operation Surfboard, Wigwam, Redwing
dad was drafted in WWII with 5 kids and another on the way. Not making much money
in the service, so us boys, me at 9 years old, my brother Bud at 10 years old
and my brother Don at 11 years old, had to try and make a living, so we carried
newspapers, 500 papers a day between us 3. Our house was located halfway on our
route, so our sisters would fold the papers while we delivered them. We did that
5 days a week after school. Our mother would work at a restaurant during the day
and do laundry for other folks at night
We would raise chickens
and rabbits for meat to eat and had a garden that was about ½ an acre big,
so we canned a lot of the vegetables. We were virtually a self-supporting family
I joined the cub scouts and the YMCA so that I could have something to do
in my spare time, what little of it there was. Sundays were always taken up with
church activities. After Sunday school and church services, we always had a covered
dish dinner at the church, and after that, youth fellowship on Sunday nights
I remember that during WWII, when the sirens would go off and the air raids,
we would pull all of the windows shades in the house, because if the air raid
wardens could see light they would come to your door and tell you to put something
over the windows that you could see the light showing though. So we used blankets
to shut the light out. Here in Marshalltown the day that WWII ended every siren,
every horn, every whistle, or anything else that would make a noise was set off.
That went on for at least an hour. It was a great day because we knew that dad
was coming home!
I know you guys on the west coast knew where dad was
stationed. He was a shore patrol and guarded the Japanese at the San Diego compound.
GREAT DAY WHEN DAD CAMEHOME!!!!! It seemed like everything changed overnight.
Dad worked at a brass foundry before he was drafted and went back to that job
when he was discharged from the Navy. It gave me more leisure time and all of
us boys quit our paper routes. To keep busy, I then joined the Boy Scouts, which
was a new Boy Scout Troop in our church. It seemed about the time that dad showed
me how to be organized or to be in control of my life and how to set goals. So
I told him that I would set my first goal, and that was to be an Eagle Scout
Two years later, I achieved that goal thanks to my dad and the lessons he
taught me. He was a great friend and buddy. I wasn't a very good athlete, so I
decided to be a manager of the baseball and basketball teams. I also was senior
class president and two years as student council president at school.
And this is how I came to join the Marine Corps: school was out for a teachers
meeting, and my car was not running as usual, so I decided to walk to town (7
miles). When I got to town, I was walking past the courthouse and saw a very common
sign that said "Marines" on it. So I decided to talk to the recruiter
at the courthouse. He seemed to be a great guy. This was at 7am and at 10am, I
had signed and was on a bus on my way to Des Moines, which was 50 miles away.
They fed us and gave us a physical. And at 4 in the afternoon, I was on my way
to San Diego, on a train. The next stop was MCRD.
I remember this big
old guy said "Attention", I listened, but my nose started itching, so
I scratched it, "WRONG". He caught me and I had to scratch my nose until
it bled. After that - I learned fast. I remember the first part of December 1953,
when we were duck walking on the grinder and my right side hurt bad, so that big
old guy again told me to keep duck walking. The next thing I know, I opened my
eyes at the navel hospital in San Diego. My appendix has burst and three days
later, I was headed back to MCRD, and guess what, right back to that big old guy
again. Things seemed to be a little better after that.
we went to combat training at Camp Pendleton. When we were about to be mustard
out of there, our Sgt. wanted some volunteers, for what he didn't say. Naturally,
no one volunteered. So he said Snider,"your one" and then he said "how
tall are you", and I said "5'6,sir". Then he said stand on your
toes, now your 5'8 - that will do. So the next thing I knew I got my orders, for
Sea School . I guess one of the requirements were that you had to be 5'8
Next orders were for the USS Curtis AV4, from April of '54, to mid December of
'56, I served on the Curtiss. Then back to Camp Pendleton for MP duty, then discharged.
When I was discharged, I had $300 hundred dollars saved and used it for my
first service station and had to borrow another $1500 for the rest of the equipment.
The station was in a small town of a 1000 people (LeGrand Iowa), and along with
changing tires, pumping gas, changing oil, etc. I got a mechanics book and started
overhauling cars, because one day I had a guy come in with a 1940 ford that used
a lot of oil so he asked if I would overhaul it, and being as positive as I am,
I said sure. After three weeks and a ton of hours, I had finished. I turned the
key and stepped on the starter, lo and behold, after the second turn, it was running.
No smoke, so now I was officially a mechanic. From that point on, I decided to
expand, so I bought more service stations. I brought my son-in-law in to help.
Everybody said that I was crazy, when I bought a three stall Skelly station. It
was pumping only three thousand gallons of gas a month. So I set another goal.
I was going to pump fifty thousand gallons in three months from the time that
I took over. I knocked on the doors of all commercial businesses in town, asking
for there business. I not only got there business, but I also got there employees
business as well. I made my goal and Skelly rewarded me with a house full of furniture,
and a trip to the Indy 500 race," a great time".
One day, I had the owner of the local ford garage come in, and he asked me to
think about selling cars for him. I told him I would think about it and decided
to sell the service stations and went to work for him. He turned out to be a great
Two years later, I was written up in TIME Magazine as the top
ford salesmen in 1973. I had sold 783 cars that year. I'm still selling cars to
this day and just love it!!!
By the way, my dad was very proud of his boys.
We were all in the service, dad in the Navy, Don in the Army , Bud in the Air
Force and me of course in the Marines.
While dad was in the
Navy, my brother, Larry passed away, and dad had always said that he would have
been in the Coast Guard. So we could have hit all the services. My brother Don
received the Purple Heart while stationed in Korea and my brother Bud flew 35
missions in the Air Force in Korea during his 11 ½ years of service.
As for friends and family, I lost my best friend, my dad, 6 years ago, who
passed away while living in Iowa state veterans home. I lost my daughter 40 years
ago, and my brother Don passed away 10 years ago. I see my brother Bud a lot;
we go fishing and messing around a lot together. I still have my daughter Penny,
who by the way has a lot of health problems, who lives 100 miles south of Branson
Missouri. That is where I was the last day of the Branson reunion. She has had
a lot of operations for bone cancer and has had other medical problems, and I
want her to come back to Iowa, but she says that as long as she has her walker
and 4-wheelershe is staying put. I asked her where she got her stubbornness from
and she told me to look in the mirror. I also have 1 adopted son and 2 step children.
The rest of my family, my wife Nadine, nine grandkids, nine great-grandkids and
believe me that's enough to keep anybody busy
I want to thank all of
the Curtis marines for their companionship and all of the fun that I have had
at the reunions. Hoping to see all of you soon!!!!