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Author Topic: Rediscovering Maj. Gen. John F. Curry  (Read 70548 times)
Smithsonia
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« on: July 21, 2008, 02:19:20 PM »

                   The Rediscovery of Maj. General John F. Curry

The sun came on strong and the day heated the clear sky to the brightest of blue. Quiet and clean white stone tablets neatly stood at attention over the honored dead, as two white haired men dressed in their Civil Air Patrol Uniforms, walked through the just mowed grass. They paused and pondered and talked, first to each other and then to one humble marker. Col. James Cooksey and 1Lt. Edward O'Brien were doing what the Civil Air Patrol was made for, finding someone lost, but dear. To reunite a family.

On Saturday July 19th at 1100 hours Col. James Cooksey, CAP of the Black Sheep Senior Squadron CO-162 saluted and paid the respects of the Black Sheep at the grave of  Maj. Gen. John F. Curry, CAP's first National Commander. John F. Curry (Jack to his friends) and his wife Eleanor are buried at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. This date, July 19th, was picked to coincide with the 67th anniversary of the Major-General's appointment as CAP's first Commander, which was on July 22nd 1941, or nearly four-and-a-half months before the official founding date of the Patrol on December 6th, 1941.

While reviewing some old scrapbooks, several weeks ago, at the Colorado Wing's Buckley Air Force Base office, Historian O'Brien and Colorado Wing Chief of Staff, M/Sgt. Cynthia Smith discovered that the General was buried at Ft. Logan National Cemetery. Lt. O'Brien set out to rediscover the grave and bring it to the attention of the Civil Air Patrol.

The General passed away in 1973, followed by his wife in 1991. Their only remaining first generation relative and daughter Sheila Curry DeKalb had not seen the grave in 13 years. As she stated, "I'm just too old to travel but Daddy would appreciate anything you do, so very much." This small and informal ceremony was organized so that pictures of the gravesite could be sent to Mrs. Curry-DeKalb in California.

In this way the Civil Air Patrol is doing just what the Major-General always hoped it would do; "Find the lost, both the living and the dead, so they are lost no more."

With respects to the General and his wife and family from the Colorado Wing of the Civil Air Patrol;


1Lt. Ed O'Brien reporting
« Last Edit: July 21, 2008, 02:58:19 PM by Smithsonia » Report to moderator   Logged
With regards;
ED OBRIEN
Smithsonia
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2008, 10:48:11 PM »

After talking to Maj. Gen. Curry's daughter -- she has more than a few things to add to his biography. Historians and AEO's take notes.
1. He bought Ford Island on which Hickham Field Hawaii was built. He was a Captain when he did that, sometime around 1922.
2. He built Wright Patterson Air Base in 1927. He was a Major, and commander at McCook Field, at the time. McCook Field was close to the present site of Wright-Pat AFB.
3. He was gassed in WW1. He didn't get a Purple Heart. I think it might have been French gas but he simply didn't talk much about it. I probably will need to see his Army records to know more. The gassing didn't seem to bother him until near the end of his days when he got large sores on his arms and shaky hands, which he attributed to his WW1 gassing.
4. He was instrumental in bringing the Air Force Academy to Colorado.
5. After retirement from the military - he was an executive of the Denver area Boy Scout Council, even though he had only daughters.
There are dozens of things left to discover about our first national commander. I hope to speak with the general's daughter again quite soon.
With regards;
ED OBRIEN
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 12:29:35 AM by Smithsonia » Report to moderator   Logged
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ED OBRIEN
SarDragon
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« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2008, 10:56:52 PM »

I visited the grave site when I was in the Denver area two weeks ago. It's one of many  markers in the Garden of Stone. It was very easy to find, using the locator available at the visitor's center. I'll post the pix when I get a chance.
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Dave Bowles
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2008, 12:57:26 AM »

More Maj. General John F. Curry News. According to his daughter -- JF Curry as a Captain was one of only 3 officers who spoke on behalf of Gen. Billy Mitchell at his court's martial. He did this even though:
1. He believed Billy Mitchell's should be sacked for disobeying orders.
2. There was some risk to Curry's own burgeoning Army career.

While, then Capt. Curry, believed in the vision of Billy Mitchell, he was a man that thought the Generals methods were over the line. That said, as a Lt. Colonel then Colonel JF Curry would quietly fulfill the dream of Billy Mitchell. He would help marginalize Orville Wright, the only remaining father of flight after the untimely death brother Wilbur Wright. It seemed that Orville Wright was more interested in maintaining his legacy than technical advancements. As such more money went to development at Langley's Aero-Labs and Navy specifications would then be delivered to Grumman mostly. This is why the Army had many Aircraft suppliers and R and D providers: North American, Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas, Rockwell, Fairchild to name a few.

Additionally, John Curry is one of only 5 men who retired as a General in the Army AND the Air Force.

Inside this political maelstrom Gen. Curry was a reliable and steady emissary to Generals Spaatz, Arnold, Eakers, LeMay etc. These men trusted Curry. They had known each other since West Point and JF Curry was the fulcrum on which American Air Power tipped and spun through the 30s and 40s.
He was a man that handled the toughest of assignmnts with great aplomb.
What a career! What a man! CAP's first National Commander!
With regards;
ED OBRIEN
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 01:24:24 AM by Smithsonia » Report to moderator   Logged
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ED OBRIEN
BillB
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2008, 01:28:23 AM »

I'm confused.  How could General Curry be appointed as Commander Civil Air Patrol in July, when CAP didn't exist. I realize Gil Robb Wilson and others had been trying to organize the organization from 1939 on. But on Dec 1 1941, CAP came into existance under the Office of Civilian Defense, not the United States Army or Army Air Corp. Why would an active duty General grade officer be appointed to command a part of Civilian Defense?
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Gil Robb Wilson # 19
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2008, 02:15:33 AM »

BillB and CAPTalkers;
Organization takes time. Like a transfered father going ahead to purchase a house before the family arrives, Gen. Curry was a lead man and organizer before the official start date of the Patrol. No longer a combat commander he was a logistics and training problem solver. I would assume Gil Robb Wilson and the rest, already working for the Civilian Defense Dept. needed a man of this nature and of precisely this stature. BUT in this I am making an assumption.

I do know that Hap Arnold trusted Curry. Hap Arnold spent about 30 minutes a month on the CAP. He needed a man who knew most of the players. Someone who could give him a blunt reasoned opinion fast and then carry out the details. Curry was that kind of man. They'd known each other since Curry's first solo, which was signed off by Arnold in 1915 or16.

Curry was a fixer, a doer, a figure out the details kind of man. He was quick to finish his official CAP Command duties, then and only a few months after the CAP was officially organized, he was sent to North Africa to report on the Air Corps campaign against Rommel. That said, there were many persistent questions about the Civil Air Patrol that needed sorting out, even after Gen. Curry left for these other adventures: Could CAP hunt Nazi Subs? Could we handle the CAP Courier Service? Could we take over the SAR Role? Should the CAP have Cadets? Women? Curry knew the CAP Officers involved, he'd been in the service and WW1 with many of them. He could get Hap Arnold on the phone and Hap Arnold knew where Curry was every minute of WW2.

Again this is an assumption and I'm still working out details, Hap Arnold asked Curry these questions, Curry said; "yes the CAP can do it." "The CAP can handle it." Then either Curry or Arnold would contact Earl Johnson (CAP's Commander after Curry)

These men all served in a small force over many years and through many troubled times. They seemed to trust Curry more than anyone else.

By the time the CAP was formed Curry knew he wasn't going to be a combat commander any longer, perhaps as a result of the gassing in WW1... but he knew he'd go no higher than 2 stars. He wasn't a direct competitor for rank, grade, or command... so he was the right guy, for every ambitious commander, for every tough job. He built the Training Command from nothing (maybe 7500 pilots, navigators, and mechanics a year) to training nearly 2 million men in 2 and half years.

His background for building bases and organizing training moved the War from the sorry state of Dec. 1941 to the juggernaut of late 1943 through 45. Not that there weren't others to mention. Not that others didn't get important roles... I just don't know of anyone who worked so well with everyone... Was so needed, so often requested, and so many times assigned to everyone. He was the man in the middle of Air Powers greatest expansion.
For more you'll need to let me get back to his daughter and do a proper write up. Which I will do over the next month or so.
With regards;
ED O'BRIEN
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Cecil DP
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2008, 05:03:52 PM »

He was gassed in WW1. He didn't get a Purple Heart. I think it might have been French gas but he simply didn't talk much about it. I probably will need to see his Army records to know more. The gassing didn't seem to bother him until near the end of his days when he got large sores on his arms and shaky hands, which he attributed to his WW1 gassing.

The Purple Heart wasn't reintroduced until 1932, 14 years following his gassing.
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Michael P. McEleney
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2008, 05:16:05 PM »

Cecil DP;
You are quite right! Much research to go through. I hadn't gotten to that one yet. No Purple Hearts in WW1, got it. Regarding his WW1 gassing -- We're still ruminating on why Gen. Curry never talked about it. So more research later.
With regards; ED OBRIEN
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ED OBRIEN
Smithsonia
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2008, 06:31:14 PM »

I was back on Gen. Curry research this week.
2 things came up:
1.Jack Curry did the first extensive tour by-air of the Hawaiian Islands in 1921/22. He landed in farm fields and little air-patches and telegraphed his wife each night with updates. According to his daughter, the General's wife was worried. The telegraph was the only instant communications available. Eleanor (his wife of only a few months at this time) would type up a report and walk it over the base ops at Pearl Harbor. This ad-hoc method satisfied both the military and domestic situations. A few months later, as a Captain in the Army, Jack Curry would negotiate with the Governor/ administrator for the sale of Ford Island to the Army Air Corps. Hickham Field is now located on Ford Island. The War Department told him to do as he thought best on what field to purchase -- "they trusted his judgment."

2. Leaving from Lowery AFB Denver on one of his last flights as an Army/AF pilot in 1946, Jack Curry took his daughter, Sheila, southeast into the Colorado Plains. This was a sour weather day that was clearing out fast. Sparkling rainbows and gashes of sunlight popped out as the clouds departed. Gen. Curry said, "If I could land the plane at the end of that rainbow, we'd go over to that leprechaun take his gold and we'd be rich. Sheila knew her father well and loved him dearly. She said, "That's OK daddy, we are rich." The General cleared his throat as if he'd thought of something that was deeply felt and said... "You're so right... if you can fly a plane through a rainbow, you are rich."

"If you can fly a plane through a rainbow -- You are rich." I wouldn't mind that as my epitaph one day, how about you?


 
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 06:35:51 PM by Smithsonia » Report to moderator   Logged
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ED OBRIEN
Smithsonia
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« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2008, 04:33:21 PM »

More Maj. Gen. John F. Curry trivia... AEO and historians take notes.
From the Official Guide of the Air Force Academy:
"One of the pioneers of aviation, retired Maj. Gen. John F. Curry, lived in Denver. For many year climatology had been his hobby. His studies of altitude and flying as well as his study of respiratory diseases at military installations in Colorado and Wyoming were invaluable to Air Force and medical
authorities wrestling with thorny questions. His studies helped resolve Colorado as a suitable location for the Air Force Academy."

Because the front range of Colorado with it's moderate climate and dry air was thought to be the best place to live for those suffering from respiratory troubles such as tuberculosis --many people with these diseases moved to the state from other places -- and therefore the death rate for this disease was higher than any other place in the country -- the Army and Air Force were under the mistaken opinion that tuberculosis was rampant in Colorado and the Air Force Academy shouldn't be located in such a place as this.

Only after, now private citizen, Jack Curry straightened the issue out -- was Colorado included in the possible AFA sites. John F. Curry conducted tours of various locations in 1954-55 for members of the site selection committee including Charles Lindbergh and Gen. James Doolittle both of whom were persuaded and eventually favored Colorado for the Air Force Academy.
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ED OBRIEN
Cecil DP
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« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2008, 10:06:56 PM »

Cecil DP;
You are quite right! Much research to go through. I hadn't gotten to that one yet. No Purple Hearts in WW1, got it. Regarding his WW1 gassing -- We're still ruminating on why Gen. Curry never talked about it. So more research later.
With regards; ED OBRIEN

Of course if it was french gas, it would be considered friendly fire and not a combat wound. If it was German or Austrian he would rate one retroactively.
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Michael P. McEleney
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2008, 06:25:27 AM »

Cecil DP; We'd thought of that too, but don't know the answer. I headed to see the Maj. Generals daughter in October and will be in Washington 2 weeks later in early November. I'm hoping to look at the Generals Army records and then we'll know.
With regards; ED OBRIEN
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ED OBRIEN
Smithsonia
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2008, 02:37:39 PM »

More Curry Research -- Historians and AEX Officers please note.

From 1931 to 1935 Major and then Lt. Col. John F Curry was Commandant of the Air Tactical School at Maxwell Field. During this period there was a huge expansion of Maxwell's facilities. Meaning that John F. Curry was responsible for all construction and training. From this endeavor, and even though it has undergone many revisions since, the current headquarters of the Civil Air Patrol at Maxwell, was built. Though not originally used by the CAP (for it would be many years before he CAP was established) The current Headquarters of CAP was built by Jack Curry. At least the current footprint of the building that is NHQ was laid out. It is also known that the location of Maxwell Field as CAP NHQ is due to Curry's knowledge of and time spent at this base. There is no coincidence, no accident, this was by design... although the design played out over 10 years. This design seems to have been the act of one man, JF Curry.

In 1928 Capt. then Maj. Curry was Commandant of Air Craft Technical School at Langley VA. It is interesting that JF Curry played a hand in both the building of Wright-Patterson and Langley. Each did different things and lead to the establishment of very different R and D models for the Air Corps Command and the Navy. Where as most of the Research and Development in the Air Corps was done at the various contactors of Boeing, North American, Lockheed, Fairchild, etc. (Think of the Lockheed Skunk Works, which came along in the late 40s and 50s) Most of the Navy's R and D was done at Langley and the information then sent directly to Grumman or Chance Vought. Meaning, that it seems that this was by design also. Perhaps by the design of JF Curry.  However it is certain his professional involvement was more than coincidental in this distribution of talent, labor, and achievement. More Curry factoids soon.

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ED OBRIEN
jimmydeanno
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2008, 02:44:28 PM »

Ed,

The current CAP NHQ building used to be a hospital.  The place this is most evident now is the cafeteria/break room which is located in the former morgue.
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2008, 03:10:11 PM »

Jimmydeanno;
Thanks. I've got three plat maps regarding the expansion Maxwell circa 1932-36. It begins with 3 hangars, offices attached and 2 rows of buildings -- which I'm assuming were barracks for enlisted, officers and offices.
Very tight little grouping of buildings. Probably the current building for NHQ was built in the second phase of construction around 1935. I've got very few identification markings for those buildings. Barracks and hangars are easy to identify -- other buildings, like a hospital are nothing but footprints on the plat map. The streets are easy to calculate and the expansion buildings too. Simply put, the buildings names are not all ID'ed. It is obvious that what is now the NHQ building is on the 1934/35 map. Or at least the footprint of that building is there. There is an additional layer that occurred in 1936-38 but likely all of those buildings were planned during the Curry Administration of Maxwell. I should get more information on this series of build-outs in the coming months. If so, Ill post it.
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ED OBRIEN
alamrcn
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2008, 03:32:22 PM »

Quote from: jimmydeanno
The current CAP NHQ building used to be a hospital.  The place this is most evident now is the cafeteria/break room which is located in the former morgue.

Wow!
So when a NatHQ collegue says, "Your lunch smells like something died."
It may not actually be the meal.

Gen Curry was such an amazing guy, and he becomes even more so the deeper the research. He's almost like the "Forrest Gump" of aviation, in that he was present at or in the fore-front of so many amazing things in American history.

-Ace

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Ace Browning, Maj, CAP
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2008, 04:17:31 PM »

Ace;
If you go here, you'll find the official history of Maxwell:
http://www.au.af.mil/au/history/history_1920s_1930s.asp

What is interesting is there is NO mention of Jack Curry's administration at Maxwell 1932-36. In this history they leave off at 1931 and pick up again in WW2. I'm talking to the base historian... at least I've got an email into him... to let him know this new information. However, you'll see that in 1929-1931 the change in American Airpower swung. Langley Field (don't forget JF Curry ran Langley in 1928) moves some of it's responsibility and training to Maxwell in '31, according to the Maxwell history and JF Curry shows up in  Maxwell in '32. This can't be coincidental. More research to do.

Frankly, I think the General Biography title should be: "The Good Little General Jack; The Unknown Visionary Behind American Air Power 1920-1945." Forrest Gump was an accidental witness to history... JF Curry made history, and who knew? Now we all do. This guy is more interesting than 25 Paris Hiltons. More soon.
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ED OBRIEN
BillB
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2008, 06:59:47 PM »

I had four wisdom teeth pulled at the Maxwell Hospital. The Dental area is now the Office of CC CAP-USAF.
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Gil Robb Wilson # 19
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Smithsonia
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2008, 08:12:33 PM »

You'll love this one! Historian and AEO's take note.

In 1921-23 then Captain Curry lived in Hawaii. (SEE THREAD ABOVE FOR SOME OF THESE ADVENTURES) Both he and new wife Eleanor were avid swimmers. (Eleanor growing up in California loved ocean swimming) A neighbor... first described as an "amazing native boy" offered to take Jack and Eleanor surfing. They went and loved it. Eventually they both got long boards (14ft and too heavy to lift alone) and regularly surfed Waikiki Bay. It apparently was right where the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is now. Their boards were built by this amazing young man, and surfing coach, who would become famous as the father of modern surfing Duke Khanamoku. Or as the surfing community knows him -- The Big Kahuna.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Kahanamoku

OK so this is more of a Forrest Gump moment. BUT it is also a great family story from the General's daughter, Sheila.
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ED OBRIEN
alamrcn
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« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2008, 10:02:31 PM »

Quote from: Smithsonia
The Big Kahuna. OK so this is more of a Forrest Gump moment.

SEE!!!!

Quote from: BillB
I had four wisdom teeth pulled at the Maxwell Hospital. The Dental area is now the Office of CC CAP-USAF.

The obvious irony... I'll bet a LOT of teeth were pulled in that office, along with arm twisting and back breaking. This would of course have bewn AFTER it became occupied by CAP.

I think Gen Curry is climbing up on my VH1 list of Top 100 American Heros.

-Ace
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Ace Browning, Maj, CAP
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