Eugene Curnow

Gene Curnow was born in 1925 into a colorful family. His father worked as a high rigger during the construction of the Oakland Bay bridge. He was also a local moonshine maker, which he said helped his balance. His mother was a deeply religious woman who eventually raised Gene with the help of an uncle who owned property in Poverty Flat, in northern California near Whiskeytown.

Although the Depression was in full swing, and they didn’t have two nickels to rub together, Gene and his cousin Rex found no shortage of entertainment. As teenagers, they rode the rails from California to Oregon in the last days of the great steam engines.

Gene enrolled as a pre-med college student in Seattle, but joined the Navy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He was one of two trainees to score a nearly perfect score at the shooting range, and he was earmarked for special training. Despite his skill with a gun, though, he became a medical corpsman.

February 19, 1945, Gene was one of 36 medics who landed at Iwo Jima along with 2,500 Marines. Ten days later he was among the six corpsmen and 88 Marines who left the island alive.

After escaping death numerous other times during World War II, Gene was honorably discharged in 1946. He returned to college and earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Washington State College. He established a successful veterinary medical practice that spanned 22 years. His was the first veterinarian practice to be featured in National Geographic. Gene was lauded for pioneering the mobile veterinary clinic, a concept that is currently used worldwide.

During the war, Gene became a trauma specialist. He has spent years counseling for the Veteran’s Administration Veterans Helping Veterans program, helping young soldiers combat the paralyzing effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Gene retired from veterinary medicine in 2006. He passed away in 2010.

Author Photography


Books by Eugene Curnow

Life, the Hard Way: Up from Poverty Flat

Author: Eugene Curnow
Published: October 1, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9795189-3-5
Pages: 460
Size: 6" x 9"
Type: Paperback
Price: $22.95
Categories: Memoir History: United States History: Military

"I have been 1 second from death, 15 seconds from death and 30 seconds from death." ...but this is a story about life. Full of adventures and memorable characters, this memoir tells how living through the Depression prepared one man to survive the bloodiest action in American military history: the invasion of Iwo Jima in WWII.Read More