John Joseph Curry Jr.

An accountant, he fought at the Battle of the Bulge and later guarded Nazi officials awaiting war-crime trials.

November 20, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

John Joseph Curry Jr., a retired accountant and World War II veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and later guarded high Nazi officials before the Nuremberg trials, died of heart failure Friday at Oak Crest Village. He was 84.

Mr. Curry was born in Baltimore and raised on West Saratoga Street. He was a 1942 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art before being drafted into the Army in 1943.

The Army sent Mr. Curry to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he studied basic engineering, before assigning him to the 11th Armored Division in Europe.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 11th Armored Division came under the command of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s 3rd Army.

"His platoon came under heavy fire, and he was one of the few survivors," said a son, John J. Curry III of Upper Falls.

Mr. Curry was a crew member aboard an Army half-track, an armored infantry vehicle.

"It was a three-day trek to the Bulge, where they came under fire from German tanks. Seven half-tracks were destroyed and burned, and when his was hit, he was ejected," his son said. "He was the sole surviving member of its crew."

The attack came during a heavy snowstorm. Wounded by shrapnel, he lay on the "snowy ground for six or seven hours before medics could reach him. He said he was so close to the German tanks that every time they fired, he bounced off the ground," his son said.

Mr. Curry was finally evacuated to a field hospital strapped to the hood of a jeep.

Mr. Curry, who was decorated with the Purple Heart, was treated at several military hospitals in France and England before returning to his unit.

On April 11, 1945, Mr. Curry participated in the liberation of Buchenwald, a slave labor concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, where an estimated 56,000 people died.

"He never wanted to talk about Buchenwald," his son said.

When the war ended the next month, Mr. Curry was assigned to the jail in Nuremberg, Germany, where he guarded Nazis awaiting trial before war-crimes tribunals that began in the autumn of 1945.

"He guarded Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and Baldur von Schirach, and had to go into their cells and shave them with a safety razor so they couldn't commit suicide," his son said.

"Every other day, he took them out into the exercise yard and walked 10 feet behind them. They weren't supposed to speak, but he said they did try and communicate a little bit," he said.

Discharged with the rank of private in 1946, Mr. Curry returned to Baltimore and enrolled at Loyola College, where he studied accounting on the GI Bill of Rights.

After graduating in 1949, he worked as an accountant for 12 years before establishing his own practice in 1961 in his home in the Glendale neighborhood of Baltimore County.

Mr. Curry, who retired in 1991, had been a member of the board of Liberty Federal Savings & Loan.

He was an active member of the Loyola College Alumni Association, where he had been treasurer, vice president and president.

Mr. Curry, who had moved to the Parkville retirement community last year, enjoyed vacationing in Ocean City and at a second home in Cape Coral, Fla. He also liked reading, golfing and traveling.

His wife of 42 years, the former Regina Creaghan, died in 1991.

He was a longtime communicant of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Roman Catholic Church in Timonium, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Tuesday.

Also surviving are his wife of five years, the former Cathryn Velte; four other sons, Matthew Curry of Catonsville, Michael Curry of Locust Point, Dennis Curry of Baltimore and Jim Curry of Timonium; four daughters, Mary Pat Thompson of New Market, Mary Carol Venanzi of Towson, Susanne Paturzo of Timonium and Margie Fasy of Parkville; a stepson, Chip Velte of Westminster; two stepdaughters, Pam Kerwin of Los Angeles and Cathy Lee of College Park; a sister, Helen Thanner of Severna Park; 19 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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