Honoring U.S. Navy Veteran and Mesothelioma Warrior Frank Curre on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

December 7, 1941: “A day that will live in infamy,” remarked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor was attacked by some 350 Japanese fighter planes, which drove the United States to join the Allied Forces in the fight against the Axis powers in the Second World War.

This year marks the 82nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took the lives of thousands of American soldiers and civilians stationed at the sprawling military base in Oahu, Hawaii. We honor them by recognizing Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day each year.

Frank Curre, who was only 17 years old at the time of the attack, survived Pearl Harbor and lived to tell the tale. In a twist of irony, exactly 70 years later to the day, Frank passed away.

“It’s like he held on for today, which is his special day,” a loved one told the family’s local newspaper on Dec. 7, 2011.

Sadly, Frank died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Frank Curre’s Story

Frank Curre was born in Texas in 1923, and he joined the U.S. Navy when he was just 17 years old. In Frank’s words:

“When I got out of high school, I went looking for a job. Couldn’t find it, so I told Mama, ‘I’m joining the Navy — and you’ve got to sign the papers, because I’m only 17.’ I said, ‘If you don’t sign the papers for me, Mama, I’ll go downtown and get a hobo to sign ’em.’”

His mother signed the papers, and within a few short months, Frank was aboard the USS Tennessee battleship headed for Pearl Harbor.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Frank was working as a mess hall cook when he heard two huge blasts, prompting him to run up to the deck to investigate. What he saw shocked him:

“I saw the first god-awful sight I witnessed that day. That’s when the bomb come down that hit the Arizona. That ship come 12-15 foot in the air, broke in two and settled back down. If you’d had a bag of popcorn and you’d went out here in the breeze and threw it up in the air — that was bodies that went out all over that harbor.”

Frank and other service members immediately set out to assist other survivors and victims. These memories would live with Frank for the rest of his days. In a 2011 interview with NPR, Frank said:

“I still have the nightmares, never got over the nightmares. And with God as my witness, I read my paper this morning — and right now, I can’t tell you what I read. I can’t remember. But what happened on that day is tattooed on your soul. There’s no way I can forget that. I wish to God I could.”

Frank served in the U.S. Navy until 1946. After his service, he returned to Texas and worked as a laborer, machine operator, pressman and machinist for a daily newspaper — all jobs that regularly exposed Frank to asbestos.

When Frank eventually started to experience chest pain and difficulty breathing, he went to see his doctor. X-rays showed he had a spot on his lung. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Before Frank passed away, he worked with the asbestos lawyers at Simmons Hanly Conroy to file a mesothelioma lawsuit. Our team considered it a privilege to represent Frank and his family.

“Everyone who met Frank was touched by his memories,” said Frank’s attorney. “He never considered himself a hero, but to me Frank was a hero, not only for his service, but for the life he lived after the War. I’m honored I was able to help him and his family.”

U.S. Navy Veterans and Mesothelioma

While Frank Curre’s stories from the attack on Pearl Harbor are unparalleled, the fact that he was diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Navy is not.

Among all professions, U.S. military veterans like Frank are most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. In fact, over 30% of mesothelioma diagnoses involve  military asbestos exposure.

The prevalence of mesothelioma among veterans is due to the significant amount of asbestos used in military ships, bases, vehicles, aircraft and barracks.

All branches of the military used asbestos, including the:

For nearly five decades, the military was the largest American consumer of asbestos. The mineral was widely used in construction materials because it was fire-resistant, durable and affordable.

As a result, service members came into regular contact with the material while maintaining buildings, ships, vehicles and aircraft. Shipbuilders were especially at risk of long-term exposure.

Virtually every section of a U.S. Navy ship — from the boiler and engine rooms to the mess hall and living quarters — contained asbestos, which is why U.S. Navy veterans represent the largest population of veterans with mesothelioma.

Frank’s decision to pursue compensation and take legal action against the asbestos companies responsible for his illness highlights the broader fight for justice that many U.S. Navy veterans with mesothelioma find themselves involved in.

Compensation for U.S. Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

U.S. Navy veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to secure justice and compensation with the help of our asbestos lawyers.

Veterans with mesothelioma may be able to pursue compensation from: 

  • Asbestos trust funds: Companies that filed for bankruptcy to avoid mesothelioma lawsuits were ordered to put money aside for current and future victims. An estimated $30 billion is still available in these trusts.
  • Mesothelioma lawsuits: Settlements and verdicts for mesothelioma can provide families with meaningful compensation from the companies responsible for their illness.
  • VA benefits: Mesothelioma has a 100% disability rating from the VA, which means veterans with this cancer may be eligible for over $3,700 a month plus free health care.

At Simmons Hanly Conroy, we pride ourselves on being a veteran-founded mesothelioma law firm. Our team has secured over $9.6 billion for clients affected by mesothelioma nationwide.

Remembering the Fallen Heroes of Pearl Harbor

The bombing of Pearl Harbor is often considered the spark that lit the match that eventually led to the dismantling of the Nazi regime and restored peace to many parts of the world.

However, the cost was steep: 

  • More than 2,400 American soldiers and civilians were killed
  • Nearly 1,800 were wounded during this attack
  • 2 battleships and 188 aircraft were also permanently destroyed

Since 1944, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day has occurred every year on December 7. It serves as a vital reminder of the sacrifices made by soldiers who enlist in the U.S. military to defend our country, its values and the freedoms Americans hold dear.

This year, the theme of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is “remembering our past while celebrating that once bitter enemies can become friends and allies.”

The goal of commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor is to “ensure that future generations will understand the valor and legacy of those who perished and those who fought throughout the war. The commemoration also highlights the importance of the peace that brought a reconciliation that continues to create a better future for all,” according to the U.S. National Parks Service.

Soldiers like Frank Curre — who will forever be American heroes — may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Simmons Support Team
Simmons Hanly ConroyWritten by:

Editorial Team

The Simmons Hanly Conroy Editorial Team consists of journalists, writers and editors who strive to deliver accurate and useful information to families needing legal help. Our team works alongside the firm's attorneys and partners, as well as with medical professionals and other specialists, to keep all information relevant and helpful.

View Sources
  1. NPR. “Living To Tell The Horrible Tale Of Pearl Harbor.” Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2011/11/11/142215550/living-to-tell-the-horrible-tale-of-pearl-harbor. Accessed on December 7, 2023.
  2. Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Retrieved from: https://www.pearlharborparade.org/home. Accessed on December 5, 2023.
  3. U.S. Census. “Remembering Pearl Harbor: A Pearl Harbor Fact Sheet.” Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/pearl-harbor-fact-sheet-1.pdf. Accessed on December 7, 2023.
  4. U.S. National Parks Service. “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.” Retrieved from: https://www.nps.gov/perl/learn/historyculture/national-pearl-harbor-remembrance-day.htm. Accessed on December 7, 2023.