Curtiss A. Martell was born in Minot, North Dakota in 1923. During his early childhood his mother moved with him to Royal Oak, Michigan where they lived with her parents. He attended school there until, when he was nine years old, they moved into the city of Detroit. Curtiss graduated from Cass Technical School in Detroit and then went to Michigan State for one year. He studied architecture and took a job with an architectural firm while continuing his education by taking correspondence courses. He was disappointed with the low pay and decided to switch to the automotive industry instead, so he found employment with General Motors truck division in Pontiac. Although he was switching from architecture to mechanical engineering work, he quickly moved up to assistant leader and then supervisor of his engineering drawings team. He was doing well, but meanwhile there were bigger things going on in the world that changed his life. WWII started and he knew that would soon be in it. He attended Missionary Church in Detroit where he met a girl that sang in the choir, Miss Lillian Lantz. They were both nineteen when they married, Christmas Day 1942, a few weeks before Curt entered military service.

He was inducted into the Army January 30, 1943 and entered active duty at Camp Campbell near Battle Creek, Michigan. From there, he was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina and assigned to the 26th Infantry Division, the “Yankee Division.” The division soon moved to Camp Gordon at Augusta, Georgia and after weeks of training there it moved again, to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. Curtiss was part of a levy of men that were reassigned to the 30th Infantry Division, “Old Hickory,” to complete that division’s preparation for overseas movement.

He was further assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 119th Infantry Regiment. Soon after his arrival the 30th Division moved to Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts, embarked onto liberty ships and sailed for England on February 12, 1944. Eleven days later they arrived at Liverpool and moved into camps to continue training and await the coming invasion. They did not have long to wait, D-Day in Normandy came less than four months later, but during that time Curt remembers his unit being visited by the famous British leader, General Bernard Montgomery. He also recalls the kindness shown to him when invited to dinner with the family of a young local banker. They generously shared what food they had during that time of strictly rationed food for the civilians.

News of the Normandy invasion was released and only a couple of days after that Curt’s unit moved to South Hampton, boarded ship and crossed over the channel. The 119th Infantry landed on Omaha Beach on June 10th (D-Day + 4), moved to contact from that still small beach head and quickly came up against German resistance after advancing barely a mile and a half inland. From that time until the end of the war in Europe ten months later the 30th Division was in near continuous contact with the enemy, having had only brief rest periods out of action, and they lost many men. Except for two weeks hospitalization the second time he was wounded, Curt was with Company C throughout the Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns. Today he says, “We were the extreme left flank of First Army, under command of General Omar Bradley. Our left flank was next to the right flank of the British troops that were fighting in the north of the Netherlands. We fought our way out of France into the south of the Netherlands and finally managed to penetrate the Siegfried Line into Germany. At that time, I was the only soldier left from the original “C” Company of the 119th Infantry that had started with approximately 200 men. All had been severely wounded or killed, and that also included replacements of approximately another 100 men.”

Curtiss Martell became the platoon leader of his Infantry platoon at about the time they had moved out of France and he stayed in that position for the duration. The battalion was cited for action in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, having sustained heavy losses while defeating a much larger force of German armor and infantry in savage fighting 19-21 December 1944. Later, Staff Sergeant Martell was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Germany on March 25, 1945, and he was also the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.

CITATION (extract)

The Silver Star

Date of action: 24 MARCH 1945


Staff Sergeant Curtiss A. Martell, 119th Infantry Regiment, United States Army is awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on 24 March 1945, in Germany. The advance of Sergeant Martell’s company was held up by fire directed on a railroad underpass by four enemy 88mm guns which were concealed from view by the railroad embankment. Taking a squad of men with him, Sergeant Martell crossed the railroad under heavy machine gun and sniper fire, captured or killed fifteen of the enemy who were dug in on the other side, and then entered a house which provided observation of the enemy gun positions and took twenty more prisoners. From his position Sergeant Martell signalled friendly tanks which advanced and neutralized the enemy gun positions. Entered military service from Michigan.

Brigadier General – U.S. Army Commanding

He says, “After the fighting ended in May 1945 the 30th Infantry Division was on the list to be sent to the Pacific Theatre in preparation for an invasion of Japan. In planning for that mission, the company commander offered me a commission to Second Lieutenant. But, having a wife, and a baby son back home that I had never seen, and having more than enough points to be sent home for discharge, I respectfully declined. At the same time, however, I suggested that promotion higher than Staff Sergeant would be good because I had paid my dues with months of combat experience as a platoon leader. The commander was not opposed to the idea, but, in the closing weeks of the war when it was obvious to everyone that the end was near, a number of our wounded men suddenly began returning from hospital and some of them, four in my platoon alone, were senior in rank to me; with no vacancies his hands were tied. I didn’t get the promotion.”

S/Sgt Martell was shipped back home in September 1945, discharged on November 10th, and returned home to Detroit. He soon found employment and he and Lillian resumed family life. They had four sons and a daughter, and as their family was growing they moved from Detroit to Oak Park, and eventually to a home in Royal Oak. Curtiss voluntarily retired in 1981 when his company was bought out by another firm and he was unwilling to accept some of the changes that came with that. Meanwhile, their daughter and her family were established in Austin, Texas, and in 1999 Curtiss and Lillian moved to this local area to be near her in retirement. This month, PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Curtiss A. Martell.

Lillian says:
I was born and raised in Detroit, but my family lived on the other side of the city from Curtiss. We both attended Missionary Church in Detroit and that’s how we met. I sang in the church choir and that caught his attention. We began dating just a few months after America’s entry in the war, about April 1942. We spent a lot of time together from that point on and it was just the two of us, we weren’t double dating or socializing with other young couples at the church or anything. Soon, it was nearly time for Curt to go into the Army. The war dominated everything then and those were very anxious times for everyone. We were one couple among many, many others who decided to marry before being separated by the war. We married on Christmas Day 1942. After just a couple of weeks together, he went into the service that following month. When he was inducted he was sent to Battle Creek, Michigan and then allowed to go home for that one last weekend. I went back with him on the train from Detroit to Battle Creek, we said our good-byes there and then I took the train back home.

In the Summer of 1943, when Curt was in training at Augusta, Georgia, I went there to spend as much time with him as would be possible. For the first few days we were able to stay in quarters at Camp Gordon and then found an apartment in Augusta. I stayed for about six weeks and returned to Detroit only after Curt’s training sent him elsewhere. During that time his mother also came and visited for week.

The first of our five children was born after Curtiss had been shipped over to Europe. When I first received notification that he had been wounded I had a feeling of relief, believing that meant that he would be sent back home to the United States. But, then in his first letter that came after he was wounded he said that he was going back to be with his men. The days of worrying and waiting continued until the war was over.