Charles Harry Curtis – Brigadier General, United States Army

Courtesy of Association of Graduates of West Point:

Chuck was born to be a soldier—an Infantryman— and for the bulk of his 28 years and 8 months of active duty, he served as the commander of Infantry units from platoon to brigade size. Charles Harry Curtis, son of the late Clarence C. and Clara H. Curtis, was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He grew up in that area, graduating from Allentown High School in 1942, and received a congressional appointment, entering West Point in July 1942.

He breezed through Beast Barracks and was assigned to Company F-2. Roommates Smiley Hall and George Crowell helped him over the rough spots but neither the Academic Department not the Tactical Department caused him any real problems. Although there may have been some tours on the Area and some “D” academic grades, these problems only made Curt better prepared for the obstacles ahead.

Chuck graduated number 525 in his class of 852, high enough to ensure him a career as a doughboy. Fifty percent of the ground cadets of the Class of ’45 were commissioned into the Infantry. Chuck became a second lieutenant in the Infantry on 5 June 1945.

After graduation leave, Chuck and his Infantry classmates reported to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia for the Basic Course. Shortly thereafter, Japan surrendered, ending any chance for the class to see any combat action in World War II. While at Benning, Chuck and 11 of his classmates were selected for parachute training. Five weeks and seven jumps later, the lucky 12 were sent overseas—six to the European Theater and six to the Pacific. Chuck went to Sendai, Japan, joining the 188th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division, as a platoon leader—the first of many assignments with Airborne troops. Later, Chuck was a company commander in Fukushima, a distance from the rest of the Regiment. He took great delight in describing himself as the Mayor of Fukushima.

While en route to Japan, Chuck had met Lieutenant Stella Shaft, an Army nurse. Their courtship led to marriage at Camp Schimmelpfennig, Sendai, Japan, on 26 May 1946. Their first child, Ann Dee, was born there in March 1948. Shortly thereafter, there was a major construction effort at the camp, and many changes were made. Chuck later jokingly recalled that he married in the post stockade and his daughter was born in the F Company orderly room.

Next, Chuck went to Fort Bragg and the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division. He was one of five members of his class with the 2d Battalion. Four of them, Chuck included, commanded the line companies. There was a great deal of rivalry between the Companies. Chuck’s company was frequently the winner in various competitive activities—inspections, drills, and maneuvers.

After 3 years with the 82d Airborne, Chuck attended the Advanced Course. The Korean War was in progress and, as expected, he went to Korea. He was with the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, where he earned the Bronze Star and his first Combat Infantryman Badge. The family remained behind in Lewiston, ID, where son “Scooter” was born in 1952. In 1953, Chuck was among the first of his class to attend C&GS at Ft. Leavenworth. Daughter Nancy was born there.

The Pentagon beckoned, and Curtis spent 3 years marching the halls and fighting paperwork. He went to the Armed Forces Staff College, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, where, in 1960, he earned a master of business administration. Then, back to the Pentagon with the Office of the Chief of Research and Development from 1960–62. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1963.

Next, Chuck commanded an Infantry battalion in Alaska. One of the companies in the battalion was Airborne Infantry. Chuck bragged that he had jumped farther north than any of his classmates when he jumped with his Airborne troops at Ft. Barrow, Alaska. He survived the great earthquake that rocked Anchorage and survived the remainder of his tour on the staff of U.S. Army, Alaska. He went to the staff of the DA Comptroller in 1966.

In 1968, he went to Vietnam, commanding a brigade with the 1st Air Cavalry Division and earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, 12 Air Medals, and a star for his Combat Infantryman Badge. Next, he was Chief of Staff, 5th Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. His final assignments were in the Washington, DC, area with the Office of the Army Inspector General and the Military District of Washington. He retired on 31 January 1974 with the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with 2 OLC, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, 12 Air Medals, numerous service medals, and awards from Belgium and the Republic of Vietnam. He also earned the Master Parachute Badge and the Glider Badge.

Next, he was the business administrator for a law firm in New Jersey. His marriage to Stella Curtis ended in divorce in 1977, and Chuck returned to the Washington, DC, area, serving for eight years as a committee executive for the National Security Industrial Association. He met Jane Meacham, and they married on 6 June 1981. Several years later, they moved to Smithfield, North Carolina, where Chuck enjoyed full retirement. In 1996, Chuck’s problems with diabetes worsened, and he was placed in a nursing home. He died from the disease and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by wife Jane of Smithfield, daughters Ann and Nancy, son Charles, and four grandchildren.

Chuck left behind a loving family, many classmates, comrades, and friends who shared his life and good times. Well done, Chuck. Be thou at peace.

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