I wanted to share a photo of my uncle, Pvt Curtis Conn, KIA, 24 Dec 1944 in the English Channel

+8 votes


Curtis was a member of the 66th infantry division aboard the SS Leopoldville on 24 Dec 1944 crossing the English Channel in route to reinforce the allied troops fighting the Battle of the Bulge. Approximately 5 1/2 miles from the Cherbourg France shore, the Leopoldville was struck by a torpedo fired by German U-boat U-486 and slowly sunk over the next several hours. The initial blast killed several hundred troops and, in all, well over 700 troops were lost on that night. Most of those lost after the initial blast can be attributed to a series of errors by the Leopoldville crew, the escort ships, and the base at Cherbourg.

The incident was deemed a war secret by both the Americans and the British and the families were given almost no information on their sons deaths. Many were told for months, up to a year, that their son was only missing in action all the while fully knowing all were KIA. Curtis's family was not notified that he was KIA until 7 Mar 1945, until then he had been classified MIA, lost at sea. No other explanation was given nor was one ever given after he was declared KIA. All who knew of the incident were issued a gag order and forbidden to discuss it with anyone or even write home about it. Accordingly, censors made sure mail home was clean. The official US records were not declassified until 1958-59.

*Information taken from an article on uboat.net, 24 Jun 2010.

WikiTree profile: Curtis Conn
asked in Photos by Randy Conn G2G1 (1.3k points)
edited by Randy Conn

2 Answers

+9 votes
Best answer
A very sad story. However, it doesn’t diminish the honor he should receive. I see that there is a memorial for Curtis on Findagrave. Is there a special section in the cemetery. Was his body actually recovered, or was a stone just placed for him?

When you write Curtis’ bio, include this story. Curtis deserves to be remembered. Thanks, Randy, for sharing this with us.
answered by Pip Sheppard G2G6 Pilot (715k points)
selected by Randy Conn
Thanks for your answer Pip. No, his body was never recovered. He is listed on the memorial to the disaster in the cemetery. I’m having trouble adding his picture to this question, any suggestions?
+3 votes
How sad, and this is how they treated our heroes families during the war!

I have tears in my eyes reading the story about Curtis, and knowing how his family felt, waiting all of that time for news about him, while the Americans knew that he was already dead.

My sympathies are with your family. I am so sorry that they lost a son, and also that they had to suffer so long to wait to find out that he was deceased.

A true hero in my eyes.

Thank you for sharing your Curtis story.
answered by Cheryl Hess G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
Thanks for your comment Cheryl. Actually, even though this event was declassified in the late 50’s, it was done so quietly. The families were never officially notified of the true nature of their sons’ deaths. My grandparents went to their graves without knowing. I informed one of my uncles, in his late 80’s at the time, of the true nature of his brother’s death. You could see in his eyes how devastating and also releasing the news was.

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