Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr. Part 2
By Elaine Henson
During WWII Punky was a student at New Hanover High School. The war was much on his mind and he wanted to drop out of school and join the Marine Corps. It took ardent pleading with his parents but, they finally consented. It was 1944, and he was 17 years old. He did his basic training at Paris Island, S.C., and Advanced Infantry and Demolition training at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (his favorite). Then he was on to San Diego, California for Anti-Aircraft training.
By 1945, he was stationed on the light cruiser ship, USS Birmingham, in Okinawa, Japan. On May 7th, the Birmingham, with 38 marines among the 900 sailors on board, was hit by a suicide plane. Two of the marines and forty-five sailors were killed with 5 missing. Punky suffered a knee injury that would affect him for the rest of his life. After that the Birmingham went to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Three and a half months later, they were enroute back to Okinawa, when they received word of a cease fire. After that they sailed to Australia where the lady folks met the ship with open arms to the delight of the war weary men on board.
Then it was back to the states, first to San Francisco and then San Diego. From there he went home for 30 days leave before a three month stay at the hospital in Camp Lejeune and treatment for his leg injuries before being discharged. Coming home he went back to NHHS graduating in 1946.
He was glad to be back at the beach with his family and friends. One of those friends was Andy “Hose Nose” Canoutas. Andy’s parents, George and Lola Canoutas, had the Plaza Grill and Bingo on the K Avenue corner where Jack Mackerels is now.
Punky and Andy got certified at the Red Cross to be lifeguards with Andy being the first one at Kure Beach. In later years, they also went diving together with air tanks and scuba gear on Civil War blockade runners bringing up artifacts.
About this time, Punky decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and take flying lessons. His cousin, Hall Watters, who got his flight training in the Army Air Force during the war, was teaching at Pennington’s Flying Service at the airport then called Bluethanthal Field. Hall and his brother, Robert, were living with the Andrew Kures who were living on the highway which is now Fort Fisher Boulevard. The three cousins rode the Queen City bus to Pennington’s every day and back to the beach. Punky received a commercial flying license in 1947, but his intention was to just fly for fun.
Over the next few years he worked as a welder, fisherman, and a security guard at the Loran Station on River Road. He always had a good time and, as a bachelor he “played the field” with the ladies. He would take dates down to Fort Fisher and drive out on the Rocks over to Zeke’s Island for his own private parking space. But his dating days would end in 1952, when he married Jean Ammenhauser in the Kure Memorial Lutheran barracks church.