Friday, December 1, 2017

Master Sergeant Jerry Curtis Christiansen

About July 8, 1950.  Vicinity of Ch’onan, Korea. Master Sergeant Jerry Curtis Christensen of Balaton, Minnesota has his photo taken by Life Magazine’s Carl Mydans. Christensen was age 25 at the time. He was previously employed in electrical equipment manufacturing before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1946. At the start of the Korean War, Christensen was assigned to the headquarters company of Philip Hughes’s 34th Regiment. Christensen’s military occupation specialty was “infantry operations chief,” a title that applied to any number of administrative tasks supporting the battalion command post.

Mydans snapped this photo in the immediate aftermath of the 34th Regiment’s disastrous encounter with the North Korean People’s Army at Ch’onan during July 7-8. Elements of the 34th’s Third Battalion and Headquarters staff were cut off and surrounded. Only a few, including Christensen, managed to break out.  This photo subsequently appeared in the July 24, 1950 issue of Life Magazine. According to the caption, Christensen said “All I need is a bath.” Note the wedding ring on his left hand.

Jerry would survive 34th Regiment’s next two weeks leading up to the Battle of Taejon on July 20. He was one of the many U.S. soldiers unable to escape the enemy’s encirclement of Taejon.  Rounded up with other dazed survivors, he undertook a forced march to a North Korean prisoner of war camp at Hanjang-ni.  Jerry died there on December 10, 1950 due to some combination of illness, exposure, or wounds. His remains were never recovered.

Another blogger suggested that Jerry Curtis Christensen was the model for the January 1, 1951 cover of Time Magazine.  What do you think?

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