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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download PDF
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
Marine Detachment-USS Curtiss
[1954-56] Ops. Castle, Surfboard, Wigwam

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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download PDF
Joe Stallings
Operation Castle, Wigwam, and Dominic


Joe Stallings j_p_stallings@yahoo.com
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000

In 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"!
Semper Fi
Joe

From: Joe Stallings j_p_stallings@yahoo.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.

During 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.

Joe Stallings
USMC - June 1953 - April 1959

Joe's Dominic Photos

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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download PDF
Operation Greenhouse
Keith D. Cunday
Date: 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 glasses.
This is an adventure that will be remembering the rest of my life.

Semper Fi

Keith Cunday
Diamond Bar CA.
kcunday@linkline.com

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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download PDF
Operation, Castle & Wigwam
Dan Leonard
May 2005

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.

Dan obtained 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.

Dan 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 immensely.

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 PDF
Robert W. Mackenzie
Operations: Castle, Surfboard, Wigwam
March 2005


The Mackenzie 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 Atomic Marines.

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.

My 1950 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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Curtiss Atomic Marines - Download PDF
Tom Snider
Operation Surfboard, Wigwam, Redwing
August 2005

My 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.

After graduation, 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 friend.

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!!!!

Semper Fi

Tom Snider
"Little Beaver"


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