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March 25, 1996

Remember: 'These men gave'
Washington celebrates Medal of Honor Day

by Sally MacDonald
Seattle Times staff reporter

It used to be known as the ``dead man's medal'' because so many men were killed in battle earning it.

This is Congressional Medal of Honor day in Washington state, in recognition of the 3,401 heroes - particularly the 84 from this state - who performed extraordinary feats in battle in America's wars, campaigns and armed conflicts. The medal dates from the Civil War and is the country's highest award for military valor.

Fewer than 200 Medal of Honor recipients are still alive. Their stories have been told in many forms, but probably none so original as the GI Joe-style comic strips Arthur Curtis published after World War II.

The Seattle Times was the first newspaper to pick up Curtis' series, ``These Men Gave.'' Among others were the Pittsburgh Press, Boston Globe and Miami Herald.

Curtis' comics told the stories of 172 of the 432 men who received medals for heroism in World War II. The strips ran from 1945, the year the war ended, to 1949.

Curtis, 81, an attorney in Alexandria, Va., was a naval history instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944 and 1945. He supplied the simplified storylines and hired a Walt Disney artist, Michael Arens, to draw the battle scenes.

After the strip was no longer in print, Curtis published the drawings in paperback books for each branch of service. A 10-cent comic book based on the series sold 350,000 copies in 10 days.

The strip was drawn in the style of the day, featuring malevolent-looking Japanese and Germans, who spoke badly accented English, and clean-cut, heroic American GIs.

Curtis never saw action during the war, although he served briefly in the Navy. Arens died a number of years ago.

Curtis' comic strip honored several recipients from Washington state. One was Robert Bush of Olympia.

Bush was a medical corpsman treating battlefield wounds at Okinawa when a Marine officer fell wounded. As Curtis tells the story in his comic strip, Bush simultaneously treated the officer and blasted away at a Japanese unit that was charging over a hill toward them. He was badly wounded, but managed to kill six enemy soldiers.

When the smoke clears, a U.S. soldier says, ``Say Fella! You better get some help yourself! You're really shot up!''

``Don't need it!'' Bush answers. ``Let's evacuate this officer!''

Another subject for Curtis was Bob Galer, a University of Washington basketball star from 1933 to 1935. The Marine pilot shot down 11 enemy planes over Guadalcanal in 29 days. Galer became a brigadier general and served two tours in Vietnam. He now lives in Frisco, Texas.

 

Joe Jackson of Kent - a Vietnam pilot who got a Medal of Honor for rescuing three Americans from a Special Forces camp being overrun by North Vietnamese - is helping Curtis market a limited water-color edition of his comic series.

Curtis hopes to sell several sets in this area for donation or display in museums or libraries. The donor will have to be in a generous mood - Curtis is asking $250,000 for each set. Some of the pieces are autographed by recipients; one bears the signature of President Reagan.

Thirteen medal recipients still live in Washington state, said Frank Kilgore, a veteran of Korea and Vietnam who lives in Covington. Kilgore and his wife, Virginia, began petitioning for an annual Medal of Honor Day in 1989.
1996, by The Seattle Times Company
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