Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Legacy of Angels and Generals: A Memorial Day Tribute

By Ed O’Brien
WWII Maj. General John F. (“Jack”) Curry presided over training of 2 million airmen, founded the Civil Air Patrol (The Air Force Auxiliary), and built Peterson, Nellis, and Wright-Paterson Air Force Bases, among many other facilities. Four-Hundred and twenty-four airbases, auxiliary fields, depots, and bombing ranges to be exact.

John F. ("Jack") Curry reviewing troops
at  Sacramento Field, 1944
The Good General was head of the Army Air Corps Western Technical And Training Command, Headquartered at Lowry for all of WWII.

And, in the end, “Jack Curry” was also a Mile High Chapter Red Cross Volunteer.  Though his name may have slipped into the past, his legacy continues to this day.

After the War, Jack lived in the Hilltop neighborhood of Denver. He’d retired from the Air Force in 1947. Curry was one of only six men who were both an Air Force and Army Air Corps General.

His achievements were great. His career was complete. But, his life was far from over.

In the years following his retirement, Jack went to find volunteers in oddest places. Places where no one else thought to look. Bars, cloistered churches, and hovels.

As head of the local Boy Scout Council, he went looking for troop leaders at the American Legion and VFW Halls. There the retired General discovered virtuous men without jobs, unsure of their future, and even without kids… yet.

Curry in Dress uniform shortly before his retirement ceremony.
Curry talked these men at loose ends into to leading Boy Scouts out to the woods on adventures in the wild. Many of these men spent years hiking and camping in the Army. They were experts. And they were a little wild themselves. He got the American Legion to sponsor baseball teams, dens, packs and troops.

He put fire back into men worn out by war but ready for a different service.

You see, Jack was more than a Boy Scout… he was a talent scout. He could see a job and talk a person into seeing that job too. And not unsurprisingly, he’d get them to envision that they were the person to do that very job. Jack was a down-to-earth, humble, and for a General a rather soft spoken kind of guy. Even if you didn’t love him… you liked him.

Orville Wright, then Maj. Curry and Charles Lindbergh
during construction of Wright Patterson Field in 1927. 
Claire Chennault, Jimmy Doolittle, George Kenney, Ira Eakers, and many more Air Force luminaries owe a piece of their careers and their place in history to Jack Curry. He was their talent scout too. But, that is another story.

After WWII, Jack was summoned to use his talents to assist the Red Cross.

During the War, everyone volunteered in the Red Cross: Moms with boys overseas. Wives waiting at home. Kids, parents, lawyers, doctors and nurses, bell-hops and bartenders -- even parolees lent a hand. It was the thing to do.

Everyone volunteered except those “drafted” into the Red Cross. Conscientious Objectors who proved they were against military service on moral grounds were drafted into Alternative Civilian Service and the Red Cross was one of the beneficiaries. So there were “draftees” in the Red Cross. However, that is yet another great story… for later.

But after WWII, Red Cross Volunteer numbers were down. So Jack Curry set out to find new blood where no one thought to look. Again, VFW Halls, American Legion Posts, and Anti-Military Churches such as the Brethren, Mennonites, Amish, and Seventh Day Adventists. Jack knew where to look.

Jack’s reasoning was sound: These were people with passionate beliefs, people who’d shown that service was important -- all they’d need was a place and a calling. The Red Cross was that place and that calling.

Maj. Gen. John F. Curry's grave can be found at
Ft. Logan National Cemetery. Photo by Ed O'Brien
Jack spent about 10 years on the Red Cross Board in Denver. Volunteer numbers increased every year.  As such the role of the Red Cross did too.

Maj. Gen. John F. Curry died in Denver in 1973. He is buried, along with his wife Eleanor, at Ft. Logan National Cemetery.  His Grave is in Section Q number 4172.

This Memorial Day, should you be in the vicinity of Fort Logan National Cemetery, John Francis Curry, Maj. Gen. Army Air Corps, is worth your salute. Be an angel and look for his place of peace.

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