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World War II veteran recalls Pearl Harbor attack

Eloise Ogden/MDN World War II veteran Ray Curtis, of Minot, shown in this photo taken Wednesday at The Wellington in Minot, was serving in the military when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

World War II veteran Ray Curtis, of Minot, was serving in the Army when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“We heard it on the radio,” Curtis said of news of the attack.

Curtis said he was on the way to Mare Island Navy base near San Francisco when the announcement was broadcasted.

Curtis was among residents of The Wellington and visitors attending a Pearl Harbor Day memorial ceremony held on Wednesday by the Honoring Those Who Served-Ministry of Minot.

The ceremony, led by Richard Reuer, the ministry group’s founder and chaplain, included patriotic and Christmas music, lighting candles and placing red roses by Dawn Anderson, The Wellington director, and Renee Escherich, community relations director, at a display of photos of three North Dakotans – Arthur Neuenschwander, Lawrence Fecho and Floyd Wells – who died in the Pearl Harbor attack and whose remains were returned to N.D. in past months. Henry Leupp placed a folded U.S. flag on a wreath followed by “Taps” performed by Steve Veikley.

Eloise Ogden/MDN Steve Veikley, right, plays “Taps” and Henry Leupp, far left, salutes to the U.S. flag he has just placed on a wreath during the Pearl Harbor Day memorial ceremony held at The Wellington, Minot, on Wednesday. Photos of three North Dakotans – Arthur Neuenschwander, Lawrence Fecho and Floyd Wells – who died when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 are displayed on the table.

“As you celebrate Christmas this year, take a moment and pause and remember those we’ve lost,” Reuer told the group gathered for the ceremony.

When the Pearl Harbor attack took place, Curtis said it changed a lot of the plans for him and others in the military.

“I had enlisted for a year and I had another month to go. I would have got out but I found out I had to stay for the duration then,” Curtis said. He enlisted in January 1945.

He said he was going to get his discharge in California and get married there. “But it didn’t work that way,” he said.

His then girlfriend, Ellen, and his sister had boarded a train on the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack. He said they didn’t realize the attack had happened. Instead of being at Riverside, when they arrived Curtis had moved to San Francisco where his girlfriend and sister met him. His sister went to Washington and his girlfriend stayed in San Francisco.

“I only had 24 hours to get married,” Curtis said. A friend drove them to Reno, Nev. “We drove all night on a Saturday night to Reno, got there Sunday morning, got married – a judge married us – then we drove back to San Franciso and I was transferred to Texas the next morning,” he said.

His wife stayed in San Franciso for a month and then went to Texas, where they lived together for five months. “That’s the only time we lived together (during the war),” he said. She went to Minot to live with his parents until he got out of the service.

While in the military, he served in “about nine different Army camps” in seven different states. He moved up to the rank of sergeant. In December 1942, he went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

“My first assignment was with a black regiment at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Two of the officers were black and the others nonblacks. He was with that regiment for a month or so and then transferred to another unit.

While in the military, his positions include serving as a communication officer, an aircraft automatic weapons unit commander and later when he went overseas as an infantry unit commander.

Going overseas Curtis was on a ship with 5,000 people. “We went to Glasgow, Scotland, to stay away from submarines. We landed at Glasgow and took a ride on a train to southern England and got on a boat and went over to France,” he said. There, he got orders into an infantry regiment in Germany and served there until the war was over.

Curtis was discharged from the military with the rank of first lieutenant in December 1945.

Originally from Columbus, Curtis spent much of his life before the military living in Minot and went to school in Minot. After he was discharged from the Army, he farmed at Columbus. His wife, Ellen, died five years ago.

“I can still remember it all,” said Curtis, sitting at a table at The Wellington as he reminisced about Pearl Harbor and his time in the military during World War II.

Burgum directs flags flown at half-staff

BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum has directed all government agencies to fly the United States and North Dakota flags at half-staff today and encourages North Dakotans to do the same at their homes and businesses, in observance of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The governor’s directive is in accordance with a proclamation issued on Friday by President Donald Trump, which states, “Seventy-eight years ago today, the course of our Nation’s history was forever altered by the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we solemnly remember the tragic events of that morning and honor those who perished in defense of our Nation that day and in the ensuing 4 years of war.”

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