Miguel Nava '17
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JOHN O. CURTIS, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
John Curtis '35

Date of birth: February 26, 1913

Date of death: September 6, 1943

Age: 30

Lucky Bag

From the 1935 Lucky Bag:

1935 Curtis LB.jpg

JOHN OKELL CURTIS

Altoona, Pennsylvania

"Uncle John" "Okell" "Sparks"

NEED a radio fixed? Sparks devours anything in the radio field, especially QST magazines. In the spring, you'll find him training a crew for the sailing races. We suspect it was the urge to sail that brought Uncle John down to the sea and Annapolis. Dragging never greatly interested this "Pennsylvania Wolunteer;" a hop takes away too much of his craved sleep. Besides dripping showers and writing letters, reveille is John's principal antipathy. If we all could only do our studying when asleep, as Okell must do! The Bull sessions on how the Navy should be run make us sure that "Curcuss" will crash through for the benefit of all hands. He won't need the "breaks", you can't keep a good sailor down.

Rifle 3, 2, 1, NA. Reception Committee 3, 2, 1. Radio Club 4, 3, 2, 1. 2 Stripes.

1935 Curtis LB.jpg

JOHN OKELL CURTIS

Altoona, Pennsylvania

"Uncle John" "Okell" "Sparks"

NEED a radio fixed? Sparks devours anything in the radio field, especially QST magazines. In the spring, you'll find him training a crew for the sailing races. We suspect it was the urge to sail that brought Uncle John down to the sea and Annapolis. Dragging never greatly interested this "Pennsylvania Wolunteer;" a hop takes away too much of his craved sleep. Besides dripping showers and writing letters, reveille is John's principal antipathy. If we all could only do our studying when asleep, as Okell must do! The Bull sessions on how the Navy should be run make us sure that "Curcuss" will crash through for the benefit of all hands. He won't need the "breaks", you can't keep a good sailor down.

Rifle 3, 2, 1, NA. Reception Committee 3, 2, 1. Radio Club 4, 3, 2, 1. 2 Stripes.

Loss

John was lost on September 6, 1943 — possibly when his F6F-3 Hellcat fighter crashed near Hawaii. He was commanding officer of Fighting Squadron (VF) 24 and operating from USS Belleau Wood (CVL 24). (Note: That crash is listed on September 1; there is no corresponding entry on September 6th.)

His brother was listed as next of kin.

Wartime Service

From the Altoona Tribune on September 18, 1943:

Naval Officer Killed in Plane Crash

Lieutenant Commander John O. Curtis, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Curtis, of the east end section, and an Annapolis graduate in 1935; was killed in an airplane crash in the Pacific on Labor day, September 6, according to a navy department announcement yesterday, received by his brother, J. Arthur Curtis, on vacation in this city.

Commander Curtis survived the sinking of the navy’s aircraft carriers Yorktown and Hornet in the Pacific. He was born in Altoona on February 26, 1913. Graduated from Altoona High school, he enlisted in the navy on May 27, 1930, and on November 1, 1930, entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis, having gained the distinction of being one of 100 men who won admission to the academy through competitive examinations.

Graduating from the Naval Academy in the class of 1935, Ensign Curtis entered the Pensacola flying school of the navy, from which he was graduated in 1939. Since then he had been in active service, since the beginning of the war largely in the actual combat zones.

He was flight deck officer aboard the U. S. S. Yorktown during the battle of Midway and when the carrier was sunk following the battle on June 7, 1942, as she was being towed back to Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Curtis was aboard. He suffered immersion, but escaped unhurt.

After a brief leave in Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Curtis was assigned to the U. S. S. Hornet, a newer aircraft carrier, and again escaped unhurt in the sinking of the ship last October.

Lieut. Com. Curtis was attached to a new carrier in recent months. He had attained the rank of lieutenant commander last May 1, however, and was commander of a fighter squadron based on the carrier. The young man had returned to sea duty last July.

John had not married and his surviving relatives are one brother and one sister, Mrs. E. F. Githens, Philadelphia, and J. Arthur Curtis, Catonsville, Md.

John was the Aviation Ordinance Officer aboard USS Yorktown (CV 5) during the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

January 1936
Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

April 1936
Ensign, USS Pennsylvania

July 1936
Ensign, USS Pennsylvania


Others at or embarked at this command:
LTjg John Yoho '29 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 2B)
January 1937
Ensign, USS Pennsylvania


Others at or embarked at this command:
LTjg John Yoho '29 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 2B)
April 1937
Ensign, USS Pennsylvania


Others at or embarked at this command:
LTjg John Yoho '29 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 2B)
September 1937
Ensign, USS Bushnell
January 1938
Ensign, USS Bushnell
October 1939
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Squadron (VF) 5, USS Yorktown

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at USS Yorktown:
CDR William Sample '19 (Aircraft, Battle Forces)
LTjg Edward Worthington '34 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 5)
LTjg Stuart Stephens '34 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Thomas Cummins '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Milton Ricketts '35 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Samuel Adams '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg John Daub, Jr. '36 (Carrier Division 2)
LTjg Jack Moore '36 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5)
ENS Andrew Gardner '39 (USS Yorktown)
June 1940
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Squadron (VF) 5, USS Yorktown

Others at or embarked at USS Yorktown:
LTjg Stuart Stephens '34 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Thomas Cummins '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Milton Ricketts '35 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Samuel Adams '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Jack Moore '36 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5)
ENS John Black '38 (USS Yorktown)
ENS Andrew Gardner '39 (USS Yorktown)
ENS Donald Scheu '40 (USS Yorktown)
November 1940
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Squadron (VF) 5, USS Yorktown

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at USS Yorktown:
LTjg Stuart Stephens '34 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Thomas Cummins '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Milton Ricketts '35 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Samuel Adams '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Frank Robinson '36 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5)
LTjg Jack Moore '36 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5)
ENS John Black '38 (Carrier Division 2)
ENS Keene Hammond '38 (Carrier Division 2)
ENS Andrew Gardner '39 (USS Yorktown)
ENS Donald Scheu '40 (USS Yorktown)
April 1941
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Squadron (VF) 5, USS Yorktown


Others at or embarked at USS Yorktown:
LTjg Charles Ware '34 (Scouting Squadron (VS) 5)
LTjg Stuart Stephens '34 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg Milton Ricketts '35 (USS Yorktown)
LTjg John Powers '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Samuel Adams '35 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 5)
LTjg Jack Moore '36 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5)
ENS John Black '38 (Carrier Division 2)
ENS Keene Hammond '38 (Carrier Division 2)
ENS Andrew Gardner '39 (USS Yorktown)
ENS Donald Scheu '40 (USS Yorktown)


Class of 1935

John is one of 57 members of the Class of 1935 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

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