Capt Thomas J. Curtis, USMC
Adjutant, 6th Machine Gun Battalion
Thomas Curtis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1898 as a 16 year old, became an officer
through the "mustang" route, saw action in Cuba (Spanish-American War, 1898), China
(dates unknown), the Philippines (dates unknown), Haiti (dates unknown), Mexico
(Vera Cruz landing, 1914), Santo Domingo (1916), and France. Capt Curtis
suffered from being gassed in France for the rest of his life, and retired
from the Corps as a major in the late 20's. He and his children were living in
Honolulu and experienced first hand the bombing of the Pearl Harbor naval
base in 1941. He died in 1946.
While with the 6th Machine Gun Battalion in France during the World War, Capt Curtis
served as the battalion adjutant. Among his many duties, Capt Curtis served as battalion censor
and most, if not all, of the correspondence sent home from France and Germany by battalion
members is marked with his signature & censor's stamp.
After the Armistice, while the battalion was part of
the Army of Occupation, Capt Curtis and Capt L.R. Long, Battalion Intelligence Officer, working
in the battalion office at Melsbach, Germany, compiled & wrote the
History of the Sixth
Machine Gun Battalion, Fourth Brigade, U.S. Marines, Second Division and Its Participation
in the Great War.
Thomas J. Curtis was one of the Corps' heroes. As adjutant, he
ran the battalion. The major in command was the man who man who
ran the fighting. Adjutants were responsible for managing the
day-to-day operations, including the period of battle. Such
as: assignment of details to junior officers, to
non-commissioned officers, maintaining daily records of
the battalion (that is why he wrote the battalion history),
setting up food delivery (when available), assuming command
when the CO was incapacitated, and assorted multitude of
operational duties, including preparing charges for various
"crimes" by the enlisted (or even officers) and assembling a
courts martial group when necessary. He ran things so the
battalion CO could run the battles.
Curtis was born in Georgia on 20 June 1871, he served 18 years and
1 month as an enlisted Marine was promoted to Marine Gunner (now a warrant
officer)on 24 March 1917. Accepted a commission as 1st Lieutenant on 1 June
1917 and was promoted to captain on 3 June 1917. After the war he served
with the Marines in Santo Domingo..
Caption on reverse of this old newspaper photograph reads:
"New York marines Leave for China.
Major A.B, Miller points to specifications held by
Captain Thomas J Curtis"
~~ Courtesy of Eric Niderost, a history professor in
California with an interest in China Marines, and a collector
of articles associated with that period.
Please contact BJ Omanson if you have any further information on this Marine.