Buck Knight USMC and Curtis Burchfield USAAF

Curtis Burchfield was born to James (Jim) Edward Burchfield and Eula Spears Burchfield in the Hurricane Community of western Pontotoc County Mississippi. Jim was a veteran of World War I having survived going over the top with the 30th Inf. Division. He was severely wounded and returned home with shrapnel from a German shell above his left eye, his leg and back.

Curtis was born in Jan of 1923 and later two brothers, Burnell and James were born. He also had three sisters, Earlene, Jimmie and Martha known as (Mott).

Burnell served in World War II on the Destroyer Escort Alvin C. Cockrell, involved in the search for the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. Uncle Burnell was a radar man on this ship and later helped in weighting the bodies of the deceased.

Burnell said, "Before the boat shoved off from the Alvin C. Cockrell (DE-366) I was given a cigar and told to light it." He did not smoke as his father found Curtis and Burnell attempting to learn how to smoke as boys, Jim said "boys if your going to smoke I need to teach you how to smoke like men." Both of them turned green and lost their stomachs.

Burnell found out why the cigar was issued when the decomposing bodies were weighted to sink/burial while still in the Pacific. http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/escorts/de366.htm

USS Alvin C. Cockrell (DE 366) report:

On 5 August, however while operating in the Peleliu-Angaur antisubmarine screen, Alvin C. Cockrell received orders to proceed at full speed to the scene of the sinking of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35). She arrived in the area at 0600, and commenced a search in company with the destroyers Madison (DD-425), Helm (DD-388), and Ralph Talbot (DD-390), and the destroyer escort Dufilho (DE-423). One flying boat orbited overhead.

With each ship proceeding to cover an assigned sector, Alvin C. Cockrell began finding grim evidence of the tragedy that had befallen the cruiser. She sighted two empty rubber rafts at 1007 and recovered an unidentified body at 1115, quickly burying it at sea. A half-hour later, at 1145, the ship spotted several other corpses-six of which were given a burial soon thereafter. Only one of the six was identifiable, and the advanced state of decomposition in all indicated that they had been dead for several days.

Many had life jackets, and a few had clothing. The destroyer escort sighted very little debris or wreckage by that point, and "no signs of any live survivors." Eventually ordered to break off the search and return to her regular operating base, Alvin C. Cockrell departed the area at 0622 on 6 August to return to Peleliu.

Curtis grew up helping farm his father's 300-acre farm and once made a parachute out of fabric. He tried this chute out by jumping off the top of a barn, the cute did not open and Curtis received two badly sprained ankles. His brothers and sisters witnessed Dean Faulkner's plane crash; Dean was the brother of the writer William Faulkner. As the plane flew over Curtis remembers saying "I wish that plane would fall so we can see it up close," just after saying that the plane began to weave and a wing pulled off causing the plane to spin into the ground. Jim rushed to his car and the kids piled in, upon reaching the scene of the crash Curtis and his siblings ignored their fathers warning to stay away from the crash. Curtis said, "We wished we did not see what we did, bodies with bones protruding out of broken limbs, and worse."

In July 1942
Curtis arrived at Groton Connecticut for work at the Electric Boat Company with L. D. Sneed both having received training for working with sheet metal and pipe fitting in the (NYA) National Youth Administration. This was the best job Curtis ever had; he helped build submarines for the U.S. Navy. The way he remembers the date is the battle for Stalingrad, U.S.S.R. was going on. L.D. Sneed was later drafted into the Navy and onboard the American ship that was the first to capture of the German u-boat 550.

After a few months both men quit due to being homesick. Curtis went to work in Mobile, Alabama as a ship fitter, working for Gulf shipbuilding. This was a very dangerous job and Curtis saw numerous accidents. Curtis was using tools that he had not been trained to use and his primary job was putting ribs in the frame of what would be a destroyer. Due to the important war industry Curtis had received a deferment and was not drafted, but gave the company his notice saying, "I had rather be in the army than work here."

June 26th 1943
having returned home to Pontotoc Co. Curtis received his Greetings from the U.S. Government draft notice.

July 1943 Curtis was inducted into the U.S. Army at Camp Shelby Mississippi. Having been examined Curtis and some underweight sickly looking men were separated from some of the best examples of physically fit men, Curtis remembers thinking that he flunked the physical and would be sent home, but he would find out these strong looking men had defects and he and the others had passed the physical. Curtis weighed 120 lbs at this time and was sent to Miami Beach Florida for basic training, the barracks were hotels.

October 1943 Arrived Camp Barkley Texas where he received advanced Military Police Training.

December 1943 Arrived Daniel Field in Savannah Georgia, he was unassigned at the time and was recommended to attend mechanics school but asked to continue Military Police Training.

January 1944 Tinker Field Oklahoma City Oklahoma unassigned as a Military Police.

January 1944 Smokey Hill, Salina Kansas assigned to security section.

May 1944
Tinker Field Oklahoma City Oklahoma, prepped for overseas shipment 330th Service Group, 500th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing 20th AAF.

330th service group
330th ServiceGroup


Dad- top row- 6th from left


Flightline of B-29s on Saipan


B-29 on hardstand Saipan

June 1944 Camp Anzia California, shipped out to unknown destination onboard the U.S.S. Fairline a transport ship. Dad is not sure of the spelling of this camp.

Curtis bought a box of Hershey’s Chocolate so as not to get hungry on the trip over.  Once aboard the ship he consumed several of the bars.  Their bunks were next to the ships engine room and it was noisy.  During the night the ship gets underway while Curtis is asleep, upon awaking in the morning Curtis feels seasick and rushes up the stairs to the head where he finds the trough lined by men heaving their insides.  With no room here he goes up to the deck and chunders over the railing into the Pacific.  He becomes so sick he dehydrates and is put in sickbay for two days running a high fever.  An I.V. is given and Dad with his friend Butler sleeps on deck underneath some Potato bins.
Unknown how long the trip to Hawaii takes but Curtis remembers dropping anchor by the U.S.S. Arizona, which he could plainly see.http://www.navsource.org/Naval/index.html

499th V-Square Saipan

Barracks out of huts

Supine Sue

Bell towerin Garapan

Curtis was still weak and wobbly from being seasick.  He and men from his company were walking down the sidewalk on Waikiki Beach Hawaii.  Butler and Curtis were walking beside each other when Cpl. Peoli ran into Curtis knocking him 5 to 6 feet off the walk.  Cpl. Peoli was called the old man of the unit due to his age being close to forty. Peoli had seen a coconut falling from a tree that Curtis was underneath.  Curtis said, “It was so huge it would have busted my skull had it hit me.”

After two days of refitting and supplying the U.S.S. Fairline shipped out to the unknown destination.  The AAF men became used to stewed beef on burnt toast and on Wednesday a special, navy beans that would rattle when placed in your mess kit. The next destination was Eniwetok Island, which had been taken in February of 1944. 

Burchfield and Lagotto

Burcfield in Col Phillips shelter

Garapan streets 1944

Control tower Saipan

Here the officers went ashore and returned with a briefcase and maps.  The convoy again gets underway and the maps are posted with the officers informing the men that their new home was to be Saipan of the Northern Mariana Islands which were not taken yet.

The convoy stood off Saipan for two to three days waiting for the Harbormaster to push the ship into dock. 

July 4, 1944 Arrived on shore of Saipan.  Began to set up camp clearing sugar cane, here Curtis has his first meal onshore, dead Japanese soldier corpses were within five feet of him.  One canteen of water a day from a listerbag was all that was allowed, the water came from a swamp and was chemically treated.  Curtis said it did not taste like water at all, indescribable.

Garapan w. hog and piglet

Japanese air raid

Pendleton Bowl theater Saipan

Lady in Jeep 73rd BW

Guard detail, with orders to shoot if approached from the outer defense circle, challenge if approached from the inner defense circle.  Japanese footprints could be seen during the daylight; one night Curtis detects movement from the outer circle and fires his M1 Garand carbine, a bellow is heard with rapid movement as a water buffalo runs off.

During July 1944 bombs are brought in for B 24’s to bomb Iwo Jima until it’s invasion.
Curtis overheard this invasion as he was posted as security outside the meeting on Saipan; he hears some disputes by officers when they walk outside the building, stating that it will take over a week to secure the island of Iwo not a matter of hours.

Provided security for Col. Phillips.  While guarding the bomb dump Curtis comes down with Dengue fever twice and is almost out of his head with fever while standing guard until relieved. 

Ramblin Roscoe on hardstand

Saipan chow line

52nd Engine Squadron Saipan

Frisco Nannie

October 12, 1944 the first B 29 arrives on Saipan, JOLTIN' JOSIE, THE PACIFIC PIONEER, piloted by Brigadier General Haywood S Hansell, Jr, Commanding General XXI Bomber Command.

From Oct. 1944 till Oct. 1945 Curtis was involved with providing security on Saipan for the 73rd Bomb group.  Curtis remembers B 29’s going into the drink upon takeoff and others coming back landing in the strait between Saipan and Tinian.  Several Japanese attacks were made upon Saipan by Jap planes until Iwo was secured and prior to the arrival of night fighters. P-61 Black Widow.

B-29 Saipan hardstand

Teaser on Saipan

B-29 # 30 Saipan

Z-23-4644 over unknown island

December 7th 1944 15 Jap fighters attacked and shot up all the tents.  Curtis had just returned from the mess hall when he hears planes overhead, tosses his mess kit into the tent and dives underneath the wooden platform which has a two foot clearance, on the opposite side was only a one foot clearance and Cpl. Peoli is digging like a dog to gain entrance underneath.  Curtis said not a tent was without holes when the attack ended and there were around fifteen B 29’s destroyed in this raid.

October 1945 Assigned to Guam and guarded General Curtis LeMay prior to LeMay’s return to the United States.  Forgot who replaced LeMay but Curtis guarded him, this general was a four star.  Said that the general would often stop and talk with Cpl. Burchfield. It is believed this general was MAJOR GENERAL WALTER R. AGEE who as Curtis remembers him being deputy chief of staff, Headquarters Pacific Air Command, U.S. Army (Rear)

B-29s on flightline

Rosie O'Donnel's quarters

Jean Carroll entertains

Saipan recreation hall

Feb. 1946 Shipped out to USA on Navy Assault Ship, number forgotten, was supposed to take fifteen days to arrive but made it in thirteen to San Francisco California underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Curtis did not think the ship could make it under the bridge but there was plenty of room.
Received discharge from Camp Shelby Mississippi and arrived at the Pontotoc Railroad Depot where he walked home. 

Curtis returns home and became a Dairy farmer where he also farmed cotton, corn, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat with some areas being in timber.  He married Lavern Hudson 1953 a local schoolteacher and have one son Curtis Dean Burchfield born in 1958. Curtis and Lavern still live on the farm today, April 17, 2006 where he farms soybeans and has a timber farm.  At the end of this interview he said, “I won’t ever forget those guys that I served with on Saipan.”

Burchfield on the right and his 1st cousin Lannon Spears on left


jap pows
Japanese POWs' that Burchfield guarded - Soto in glasses

POW names
POW names on back of photo

Curtis Burchfield-Saipan

By Curtis Dean Burchfield son of Cpl. Curtis Burchfield 330th Service Group assigned to the 500th Bomb Group of the 73rd Bomb Wing 20th AAF USA. Cpl. Curtis Burchfield’s address is 2100 Esperanza Road Thaxton Mississippi 38871
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