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Kurvers, Harold G.

Document Type

Oral History

Date of Interview



Harold "Snuff" Kurvers was born on 18 May 1918 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and with the exception of his military service was a lifelong resident of the city. He grew up on Rice Street, and attended Washington High School until 1936. After this he worked a number of jobs before being drafted into the US Army in April 1941. He completed Basic Training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and joined the 194th Tank Battalion as a medic. In September 1941 this unit was posted to the Philippines, to Fort Stotsenburg, north of Manila and near the USAAF's Clark Field. With the Japanese attack of December 1941, Harold's unit was forced to retreat; he was eventually captured at Bataan, along with thousands of other American personnel. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March and a brief stay at Camp O'Donnell (April - June 1942) before being sent to Cabanatuan, Philippines, where he remained until October 1944. Like all prisoners, Harold suffered from malnutrition, poor treatment, and disease. In October 1944, with the US invasion of the Philippines, all prisoners were moved from Cabanatuan; Harold spent two months in Manila's Bilibid Prison before being herded on 13 December 1944 with 1600 others onto the Oryoku Maru, bound for Japan. A day later, the ship was sunk by US aircraft, with the loss of more than three hundred prisoners; Harold and others were transferred to another prison ship, the Enoura Maru, and, when that was damaged by US aircraft, to the Brazil Maru, which finally docked in Japan in late January 1945. Just four hundred of the original 1600 prisoners were still alive. Now in Japan, Harold was sent to a prison camp, Fukuoka #17, on the southern island of Kyushu, where he labored in a coal mine. Conditions were difficult. Harold remained here until the war's end in August 1945, when he was evacuated to the United States. He was discharged in early 1946, but remained until the end of 1946 in Glen Lake Sanatorium, Minnesota, recovering from tuberculosis. Once again a civilian, Harold and his wife Dorothy (married 1946) settled in St. Paul and raised three children; Harold worked thirty-six years for the US Postal Service, retiring in 1983. Harold Kurvers passed away on 29 March 2013, aged ninety-four.


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Harold Kurvers - Transcript.pdf (733 kB)
PDF Transcript of Interview with Harold Kurvers