Howard A. Curtis
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 08/04/1943 - 03/07/1946
Airplane Sheet Metal Worker, 421st Army Air Forces Base Unit

Howard was born in a company house in Barham, Louisiana, as one of six children to Leo and Emma Sandale Curtis. His father was steam engineer at Barham Sawmill until it closed during the Depression. Leo bought a farm nearby where he raised cotton, corn and other crops. Howard helped with farm chores, plowing with a mule and horse, and picking up to one hundred pounds of cotton per day. Howard says the family was never hungry during the 1930s. "It got skimpy sometimes during a dry year," he says, "but we had plenty of food." The family slaughtered hogs in the fall, preserving the meat with salt and smoke. For additional meat, he and his brothers hunted opossums and squirrels. In their house, Howard's mother cooked on a wood stove, while a fireplace and wood heater provided warmth. The family's one luxury was a battery-powered radio. "Every Saturday night we'd have plenty of company coming to hear the Grand Ole Opry," he recalls. Howard graduated from Hornbeck High School in 1940. He worked as a civilian for the U.S. Corps of Engineers in building Camp Polk, then on a surveying crew for Benham Engineers until he was "close to getting a draft call." He went to Shreveport and took a course in aircraft sheet metal work at Barksdale Field in Bossier City until he was drafted. Entering the U.S. Army Air Forces, he took basic training at Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, then completed Aerial Gunnery School in Laredo, Texas. At Muroc Army Air Field in Fresno, California, he was assigned as a B-24 waist gunner, but developed a sinus infection and was grounded. With his training in aircraft sheet metal work, he was assigned as a riveter, working with air and hammer rivet guns and overseeing routine maintenance on many kinds of planes before they were sent overseas. Those aircraft included B-24, B-17, B-26, B-25, P-40, and P-38. Howard was discharged on March 7, 1946 at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He married Lois Patton on December 28, 1947. (They would have three children, ten grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.) He worked for thirty years at Rountree Oldsmobile in Shreveport in bodywork.