By John Cuddy
LAWRENCE – Lawrence High School Alum Guy Curtis, Class of 1967, like many incoming Freshmen, wanted to play football for Lawrence High School. His family doctor would not approve him playing high school sports. Five years later, in 1968, the US Air Force cleared him medically for military service in Southeast Asia. After completing US Air Force basic training at Amarillo Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas, Guy attended jet engine mechanic training at Chanute AFB, in Illinois. When he was finished with basic and technical training, he was sent to Thailand, to support the air war against the Communists in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Guy deployed to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, around 300 miles north of Bangkok. From 1965 to 1974, the base was the “tip of the spear” in the American air war in Vietnam. During Guy’s tour as a jet mechanic at Ubon, he serviced the F-4 McDonnell fighters and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers of the Seventh Air Force. From 1962 to 1966, the combat operations of the Air Force were conducted by the US Air Force’s 2nd Air Division, which scored two “kills” in air-to-air combat against the communists. Starting in 1967, the air war in Southeast Asia was conducted by the Seventh Air Force. The Seventh is credited with the rest of the Air Force’s air victories, during the Vietnam war, racking up 135 air- to -air kills, between 1967 and 1975.
US Air Force Aces during the Vietnam conflict are Capt. Charles B. “Chuck” DeBellevue F-4, six victories, Capt. Steve Ritchie F-4, five victories, and Capt. Jeff Feinstein F-4, five victories. During the Vietnam War, two B-52 Bombers also shot down a North Vietnamese MIG-21 fighter jet. The Boeing B-52 is the largest aircraft ever to achieve air-to- air kills! Enlisted US Air Force tail gunners, SSgt. Samuel O. Turner and A1C Albert E. Moore were credited with the two confirmed kills. Three others were claimed by B-52 gunners, but not confirmed by video or other aircraft. The other combat aircraft at the base, was the Lockheed AC-130 gunship, a US Air Force Special Forces, Ground Attack aircraft.
The AC-130 was the only platform of the three types of combat aircraft at the base that Guy could not work on. The AC-130 was powered by a propeller, not a jet engine. Guy was trained on jet engines only, not prop engines.
Guy returned to Thailand during the war for a second tour. This time at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, around 88 miles southeast of Bangkok and near the coast. One of his fond memories of serving our Nation was seeing Bob Hope in a USO show in a performance that was disturbed by a B52 Bomber taking off every thirty minutes to support ground troops in Vietnam. Bob Hope’s USO show, in Guy’s own words, “It was an actual thrill to see Bob Hope in person and enjoy his quick-witted comments and jokes. It was a special day out of the year, a great temporary distraction. Among his troupe was guitarist Tony Romano, singer Frances Langford, dancer Patty Thomas, and comedian Barney Dean.” During both tours, Guy bonded with his Air Force Brothers, eating, sleeping, drinking, working, and serving together.
His other great memory was an R&R, (time off for rest and relation) in northern Thailand exploring the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. The city is famous for its rich culture, stunning temples, and endless natural beauty. Chiang Mai is also known for the area’s relaxed lifestyle and low cost of living. From the bustling night markets and street food vendors to the serene Buddhist temples and ancient ruins, Chiang Mai offers something for everyone. Guy enjoyed exploring the city, taking in its stunning landscapes, and sampling delicious street food, of Northern Thailand.
He ended his US Air Force service as a Staff Sargent, serving from 1968 to 1972. He remarked that several of his classmates at Lawrence High also served, with one man, Brian Cronin, being tragically killed in a jeep accident while serving with the US Navy in North Africa. His military awards include, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service medal with two service stars, (two tours in the air campaign) the Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the US Air Force Good Conduct Medal. He also is authorized to wear the US Air Force Outstanding Unit Ribbon with Oak Leaf Cluster (two awards).
While serving in the military, he became engaged to his wife, Denise, in 1972. Shortly after his engagement to his wife, he was honorably discharged at Travis AFB in California. On July 2nd, he, and his wife Denise, celebrated fifty-one years of marriage. The couple have a son, a daughter, and three grandsons. Typical of Merrimack Valley people, Guy and his wife Denise worked hard, supporting their family. He worked as a Service Station Manager alongside his brother-in-law for thirty-five years, later working at Butcher Boy, and retiring from the North Andover Public School’s maintenance department. Denise was a career LPN. Both retired now, they spend their free time with family, as much as possible. He and Denise make their home in Dracut, Massachusetts.
Guy also is very involved in assisting veterans of all eras and branches with his volunteer work with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Clear Path for Veterans, a peer to peer, Veterans mentoring organization. In Guy’s own words, “As commander of VFW Post 8349 in Methuen, for just over a month now, I’m trying to get my bearings. It’s an honor and I am more than happy to serve. There are some goals I would like to achieve, hopefully for the better of the post and my brother and sister veterans. Some of our VFW goals are awarding more youth scholarships, increasing membership; especially with younger vets, also assisting comrades in distress.”
Guy is also on the dynamic team affiliated with the Lawrence Vietnam Memorial. He shared with the Valley Patriot, “In 1991, my long time and great friend, Ed Hoppy Curran was able, with the help of a few others, to have a monument erected honoring the eighteen men from Lawrence who were casualties of Vietnam. After having the privilege of taking part in the dedication ceremony, I suggested we do something to keep their memory alive, and so in 1992, we had a cabaret and a raffle fundraiser.
Thirty-one years later, (we lost two years because of COVID) we have awarded thousands of dollars to well over one hundred students going on to college in their memory. A great achievement we thought would be difficult to accomplish, but not so because of our generous following and our raffle donors.”
He sees a real need for all eligible Veterans to join a Veteran’s services organization like the VFW, the American Legion, or the American Veterans (Am Vets). These three organizations are dedicated to supporting the health care, housing, education, employment, and social needs of all our Nation’s Veterans. US Air Force jet mechanic, veterans advocate, husband, father, and grandfather, Guy Curtis another Valley Patriot, “Hero in Our Midst”!
The Merrimack Valley’s American Legion Posts ask all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, Veterans, and the Community, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations and serving all Veterans and their families.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus using the GI Bill. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 26 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com ◊