U.S. Veteran Diagnosed with Mesothelioma Remembers Pearl Harbor

The year 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, during which thousands of Americans lost their lives. In order to commemorate not only this time in U.S. history but also the veterans and those who witnessed the attacks, National Public Radio has produced both a radio program and coordinating article highlighting both the event and Navy veteran Frank Curre. At the time of the attacks, Curre was only a teenager, who according to the NPR, was only 17 when he enlisted. The news source quoted Curre on the subject, “When I got out of high school, I went looking for a job. Couldn't find it, so I told Mama, 'I'm joining the Navy — and you've got to sign the papers, because I'm only 17. If you don't sign the papers for me, Mama, I'll go downtown and get a hobo to sign 'em’. " Shortly after leaving Texas, Curre boarded the battleship USS Tennessee, which according to NPR, immediately made way for Pearl Harbor. Curre remembered the day of the attacks clearly, recounting them for the interview: “The day of the attacks, I was mess cooking… we hear this big blast — instantaneously, another blast — and we come up there, topside. I saw the first god-awful sight I witnessed that day. That's when the bomb come down that hit the Arizona.” According to Curre, new memories are not as permanent as the horrors he witnessed on December 7, 1941, “with God as my witness, I read my paper this morning — and right now, I can't tell you what I read. I can't remember. But what happened on that day is tattooed on your soul. There’s no way to forget that.” The article goes on to report that Curre has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer “often caused by exposure to asbestos.” Exposure to this dangerous substance was commonplace for Navy and other armed forces members from World War II to the 1970s. Asbestos was found in boiler and engine rooms due to its resistance to heat and chemicals, as well as its tensile strength. The small, poorly ventilated compartments on naval vessels made asbestos inhalation more prevalent than normal. As a result, thousands of veterans such as Frank Curre, served their country unaware of future health complications, namely mesothelioma, stemming from exposure to asbestos. Reference:
  • NPR Staff. (November 11, 2011) “Living to Tell the Horrible Tale of Pearl Harbor.” Retrieved on November 29, 2011 from NPR.
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