“On behalf of the United States Navy, please accept my gratitude for your brave service to our Nation in World War II and for your efforts to preserve our proud naval heritage.”
Thus begins the letter sent by the highest ranking naval officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, to Tony Curtis, Signalman Third Class, WW II. He’ll be honored Dec.7, at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial on the 65th anniversary of the bombings at Pearl Harbor. A million-and-a-half visitors annually pay respect at the site. But the USS Arizona Memorial site is sinking. Curtis’ appearance will spark a three-day anniversary fund-raiser to preserve and enlarge the memorial for generations to come.
Admiral Mullen’s letter adds: “I note with admiration your service aboard the submarine tender USS Proteus (SA 19) and your participation as a crew member of that ship in the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. Like so many of your generation, you did not just witness history. You wrote it. How fitting it is then, having ushered in a new peace, you also worked so tirelessly to memorialize the day our peace first shattered in 1941. Please know that I — and every other Sailor in our Navy today — remain grateful for the interest you have shown in preserving the USS Arizona Memorial and for your desire to protect its solemnity. Again, thank you for your service — then and now — and for your continued devotion to the United States Navy.”
Curtis was understandably proudly moved by the letter as he read it and reminded me, “I started in the Navy — and went on to study under the G.I. Bill of Rights” — and his eventual spectacular career — “and happiness,” he added.
Curtis, 81, is now starting to write his autobiography, “The Hollywood Prince,” talking to Peter Golenbock. He said he is “happy and proud that I can reciprocate” by participating in the 65th anniversary events at Pearl Harbor.
Admiral Mullen is no stranger to showbusiness. His late father, Jack Mullen, was a highly-respected Hollywood press agent whose credits included MGM and Republic Studios, and the Cleary, Strauss and Irwin praisery. He and his wife Jane were friends and neighbors of mine and I chronicled the young Mike Mullen’s appointment to the Naval Academy, the start of his illustrious career now reaching the highest office in the service.