Friday, April 17, 2009

Harold Kurtz - Glider Pilot, Grandpa

Thursday, April 16th, was a day that everyone in the club has been looking forward to since January. For a long time none of us knew which day he would come, but we all wanted my grandpa, Harold Kurtz, to come talk to the club. Yesterday was the day we had been waiting for.

Harold and Polly, my grandma, live in Portland, Oregon and he made the 3 hour drive over the mountains to Bend and arrived just a little before the club started. After asking what I wanted to kids to learn about, he settled into his chair and started explaining his personal history of World War II.

He joined the US Army when he was 18, following two of his brothers into the Air Force. Another brother was in the 5th Armored division and the last was in the Navy. Amazingly, all five brothers survived the war. My grandpa went through flight school and graduated at the top of his class. Because of his skill, he was asked to become an instructor; not liking the idea, Harold failed the instructors test on purpose and as punishment was put in charge of the physical training of recruits.

When he finally got to Europe, Harold was trained to fly gliders and assigned to help fly troops over the Rhine River as part of Operation Varsity. On the morning of March 23rd, his glider made a successful landing under heavy enemy fire and that night he helped hold their perimeter against the only German counter-attack in his sector. After British armor broke through to their position, Harold and the other glider pilots were ordered back across the Rhine to prepare for another landing. The second invasion ended up not being necessary because Paton and his tanks captured a bridge intact.

My students were riveted by his stories and experiences. It might have helped that Harold is an excellent story teller! After questions had been answered, the students gathered around to look at pictures of the gliders, Harold's dog-tags, and his Glider Wings. In all, I believe grandpa's visit will be something the students will remember for a very long time.


Todd Reed said...

Have you recorded him telling his story? That would be an awesome thing to have.

Btw, I really like what you've done here. I'm just discovering your site, but do you have any information on how you tie this to the history at each meeting? How important is it to give a history of the battle their recreating?

Jewell History Club said...

Hi Todd,

Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. I haven't looked at my blog during the summer but as I get ready to start the club back up for the 2009-2010 school year I saw your comment. Welcome!

To answer your first question, one of my aunts has recorded a lot of my grandpa's stories and plans to write a book about him. I look forward to reading it!

I try to tie in the history behind each battle before we play it. We read through the Historical Background together and periodically we spend a whole session learning about what really happened. The students are fascinated and soak up the information.

Thanks for your questions and I hope you continue to enjoy following our progress!