Post Named In Honor Of Capt. Joseph J. Duncan, Jr., An Estes Park Native

At the regular Post meeting held on October 8, 2002, the members of Estes Park American Legion Post 119 voted unanimously to dedicate the Post to honor Joseph J. Duncan, Jr.

Junior Duncan, as he was known around Estes Park, was born here on February 4, 1912, the son of Joseph J. “Judge” Duncan, Sr. and Alice Duncan. “Judge” Duncan was the local Justice of the Peace and a realtor. Alice Duncan was an active member of the First Presbyterian church and a sponsor of the Westminster Guild. He also had two sisters, Janet and Alice.

Junior Duncan attended Estes Park schools where he was voted “most popular boy” in 1929 and class valedictorian of his graduation class of 1931.

In his early years, Junior Duncan was famous for his skiing achievements and had competed in many major ski meets throughout the United States. Among his numerous skiing accomplishments, he was the winner of the Second Annual U. S. National Amateur Ski championships held at Hidden Valley, Colorado in 1934. During the mid-thirties he was a member of the Cook’s Tours Company where he worked on steamships traveling the trans-Atlantic crossings and directed tours of Europe. During one tour, he met and married Audrey Cory of New York City. They later had a daughter.

He became an assistant manager of a hotel in New York City from 1936 to 1937. Upon the opening of the famous Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho, he joined the Ski School staff for two winters. He left Sun Valley to return to New York City to his former position as assistant manager of another hotel for two more years.

During World War II, Joseph Duncan entered the U. S. Army in January of 1942 as a private and volunteered for the newly formed 87th Mountain Infantry Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington. In late 1942, Private Duncan subsequently moved with his unit from Ft. Lewis to what was then known as Camp Hale, Colorado, approximately ten miles from Leadville. He was sent to Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia on October 17, 1942. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. of Infantry on January 7, 1943 and became a 1st Lt. on Sept. 21, 1943.

After his promotion he was transferred to the 10th Division Recruit School where his main responsibility was recruiting qualified skiers and mountain men for the division. By May 1944 he became the Company Commander with the rank of Captain and he was assigned to K-87.

In December 1944, Captain Duncan moved to Camp Patrick Henry, Newport News, Virginia where he and his company embarked on the U. S. S. West Point which left for Naples, Italy on January 3, 1945. On April 17, 1945 Captain Duncan was killed in combat during mop-up operations in the vicinity of the village of Cas Costa. The 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment combat history states that, “Captain Duncan’s death removed a brilliant and inspiring combat leader from our ranks; his continual regard for his men’s welfare and his repeated heroism won not merely the respect, but the love of his men and associates. His loss was mourned by all, even at a time when there were so many fine men to mourn for.”

Post 119 held a rededication ceremony on January 12, 2003 renaming the Post honoring Captain Duncan. We are now officially known as the Joseph J. Duncan, Jr. Post 119.