Martin Harris was an engineer during WWII from 1944-45. He would clear mines and such and even brought one home along with a few captured Nazi guns and a dagger. He would explode bridges and things like that. After landing on Omaha beach (116 days after D-Day which was “a fortunate occurrence in our view”, as stated in his memoir), he recalls a company Sergeant who stepped on an S-mine (which is basically what we would call a bouncing Betty today). It hit him on the knee and didn’t explode.
However my grandfather saw many horrors of war. He remembered going into a bombed out church and found two dead young soldiers: one German, one American. He said, “They were both good-looking young men, and he realized once again, how tragic war can be.” He described that as one of the most moving experiences he had seen during the war. He also remembers being bombed by an Axis plane. One bomb hit a munitions and explosives supply dump, killing at least on sentry, and another landed 2 houses down from where he and others were sleeping. He helped in the crossing of the Roer River, too. And as you can imagine, as the Germans shot back from the other side of the river, the infantry were very angry with the Germans after seeing some of their close friends killed.
In Korea, he was clearing out a stump in the road to make it wider for vehicles to pass, but when he set the charge and exploded the stump, Chinese forces across the valley started mortaring them. He yelled at everyone to hit the ground, as did he, and then passed out. He woke up in a helicopter, very cold, with the Chaplain praying over him because they thought he was on his way out. Later he found out that he had been hit in the lung by shrapnel. He asked the doctor who operated on him for it, but he refused and said they were making a collection.
After the General Army Hospital in Tokyo, he was given a Purple Heart, which my grandmother still has, along with his helmet, officers cap. I have his shirts and whistle, and bag.
We honor you, Wallis Curtis.
(Submission written by: Martin Harris)