Veteran Stories:
James Joseph “Jimmy” Curtis

Army

  • Mr. James Curtis at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, in January 25, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • James Curtis's Service Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; Victory Medal.

    James Curtis
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"When the war was over, I had a chance to talk tow German people that were doing hat I was doing and they told me they had no clue."

Transcript

It took three months to train a soldier. It took three years to train me for my job. So I was a prime target and I think the reason that I was able to survive, my buddy from the time we were six years old, until he died, when we were going overseas, his father, they threw a street party for us and his father had been a soldier in World War I; he was a sniper. So he sat us down and he told us the do’s and don’ts to give us the best chance to survive. And everything he told us was solid gold. And you see, no one fires at a moving target because that gives your position away and your chance of hitting are very small. Because there’s no way of them telling, say at 100 yards, whether a man is six foot tall or five foot six. At that distance, there was no way of knowing. So when you’re firing at a target, you’re not sure what you’re firing at. The secret language was that they gave us the codes for the language to be used. Well, what we did because what they gave us was too easy and we knew that they would be able to figure that out right away, so we made the necessary changes and we had no idea how good they were. When the war was over, I had a chance to talk to German people that were doing what I was doing and they told me they had no clue. They had no idea what we were doing. And what they were looking for something very complicated and it wasn’t, it was very simple. But it sounded complicated. The letters would be ABC, then C becomes A and A becomes C. And that’s the way it starts. And then it gets more complicated as it goes. And you think that, well, something like that would be too complicated to be useful, but it wasn’t. Our system of communications, we could put on the telephone lines and we could send them by radio signals and so forth; and what we figured that everything was moving so fast that by the time they got the information posted, it was no longer relevant. It was old stuff. And so we figured, well, why go to all this trouble of wasting time, making it too complicated? Make it very simple and keep moving. And it worked perfectly because, as I said, when we talked to them, they never did figure it out because they were looking for something that was very complicated and all the time, it was right under their nose. They just didn’t get it.
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