George Duncan’s duties during his military service in World War II often put him in harm’s way.
The 91-year-old Puyallup resident even received a Bronze Star for meritorious service for removing land mines that were obstructing the advance of U.S. infantry.
“We were mainly responsible for mining roads and then defending them,” Duncan recalled.
At 18 and after high school graduation, the Billings, Montana native was drafted into the U.S. Army. Duncan completed his training at the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 42nd Infantry Division at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, after which he was shipped overseas in January 1945. After landing in Marseilles, France, his division moved into the Hardt Mountain area in France where fighting with the German army continued until reaching the Austrian border, capturing Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, Furth, Munich and Dachau along the way. Since Duncan’s stay at Dachau was overnight, it was only later that he learned that it was a death camp.
“Near the Siegfried Line, the Germans had mined a road, which they had covered with guns from (bunkers),” he recalled.
Duncan led his squad in the successful demolition of the mines without experiencing any causalities.
When the conflict in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, Duncan’s unit began training for the war in the Pacific, which continued until the Japanese surrendered. With the war finally over, he returned home, where he was honorably discharged on April 9, 1946 with the rank of construction foreman, master sergeant, quite an achievement for a 20-year-old, he claims.
Although he found his war experience to be interesting and informative, Duncan states that he would not want to repeat it.
Although he found his war experience to be interesting and informative, Duncan states that he would not want to repeat it. He is not defined by that period in his life and is not involved with any service-related organizations, though he went on the 2016 Puget Sound Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to see the National World War II Memorial.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from then-Montana State College in 1950, Duncan was employed by General Electric and later Phillips Electric before retiring. Staying in Chicago was not an option given the weather. Eventually, Duncan and his wife of 70 years, Marian, were drawn to Washington state to be closer to family. The couple have two sons and two grandsons.
In his retired life, Duncan has taken on a host of volunteer roles in the Puyallup community.
Duncan is passionate about using one’s knowledge and skills to make a difference. Not too surprisingly, given his professional career and later volunteer work, is the value he places on his organizing skill.
“I like to have things organized right,” says Duncan. “If they aren’t, then something needs to change.”
Although his numerous volunteer activities might be considered daunting by some, volunteering is just what Duncan does. He has been the chairman or president of nearly every professional and volunteer organization to which he has belonged.
Currently, Duncan is a member of the Senior Forum, an advisory board of the Puyallup Activity Center, a member of the Parks, Recreation and Senior Advisory Board, a former chairman of the MultiCare Celebrate Seniority board and a member of the group’s planning and finance committee.
As a member of the Puyallup Area Aging in Community Committee board of directors, Duncan is helping to plan the group’s 7th annual Volunteer Fair from from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, 110 9th Street SW at the Washington State Fair Events Center.
There is something that everybody can volunteer to do.
“There is something that everybody can volunteer to do,” he believes, but cautions, “volunteers need to provide input, be involved and to bring new ideas,”
A longtime volunteer with area schools, Duncan has tutored math and reading and has served on the Puyallup School District’s Career and Technical Education Manufacturing Advisory Committee. In 2015, he was presented a certificate of appreciation for his work with the Rogers High Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in a special assembly at the high school.
In addition, he is a starter/referee for swim teams at Rogers, Emerald Ridge and Curtis high schools.
Duncan doesn’t claim to possess a formula for longevity. He reports that he has always exercised and now regularly walks a half-mile. Reflecting on his active schedule, he said, “When I start something, I get interested in it and keep going.”
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 29
Where: Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, 110 9th Street SW at the Washington State Fair Events Center
What: Presented by the Puyallup Area Aging in Community Committee, the fair is designed to help individuals who want to volunteer to meet organizations that need volunteers.