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Col Gwynne S Curtis, Jr

Col Gwynne S Curtis, Jr

Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Death 24 May 1989 (aged 71)
Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, New Mexico, USA
Burial El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, USA
Plot I, 0, 2287
Memorial ID 546677 · View Source
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Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Jr.was the son of Gwynne Sutherland Curtis and Myra Donnelly O'Fallon). He was born on 4 September 1917 in Dallas, Texas, and died at his home on 23 May 1989 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Gwynne Sutherland Jr. Curtis married Cornelia Ann Buckman on 20 June 1941 in USMA West Point, New York. Cornelia is the daughter of Clarence Jay Buckman and Ada Cornelia Luedinghaus. Cornelia died on 24 January 1881 in Monterey California.
Children of Gwynne Sutherland Jr. Curtis and Cornelia Ann Buckman are:
i. +Cornelia Fallon Curtis.
ii. +Martha Claire Curtis.
iii. +Stephen Buckman Curtis.


Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Jr. began his college education at the University of Texas at Austin. Later he secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and graduated with the Class of 1941. His West Point classmates gave him the nickname "Pooge".

Second Lieutenant Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. was initially commissioned in the Army Coast Artillery but was detailed to the Army Air Corps for Primary Flying School at Randolph Field, Texas. He graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas and then was commissioned in the United States Army Air Corps as a pilot. Lieutenant Curtis’ initial assignment after pilot training was at Dale Mabry Army Airfield, Tallahassee, Florida. There he was assigned to the 81st Pursuit Group (Interceptor) where he trained in the Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter aircraft.

Lieutenant Curtis served in the defense of Iceland during the early stages of World War II, from April 1942 to Jun 1944 as a P-40 and P-39 fighter pilot and engineering officer for the 33rd Fighter Squadron, Iceland Base Command Group at Reykjavík, Iceland. There he was engaged in flying defensive patrols over the North Atlantic. On August 14, 1942, then Lieutenant Curtis, flying a P-40C and 2nd Lieutenant Elza Shaham, flying a P-38F, participated in the destruction of a Focke Wulf FW-200C-3 Condor to obtain the first United States victory over a Luftwaffe aircraft.

Gwynne Curtis Jr. returned to the United States in 1944, going to multi-engine flight school at Mitchell Field, New York and trained in the Douglas A-26 Invader light bomber aircraft. He was then transferred to the Pacific theater with the Seventh Air Force on Okinawa where he served from June until January 1946. While on Okinawa he was assigned to Headquarters Squadron, 319th Bombardment Group (Light) when he flew combat missions over Japan and China, attacking airdromes, shipping marshaling yards, industrial centers, and other objectives. His actions during this assignment earned him a Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat, the Air Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal. Following the end of World War II he commanded Yontan Air Base, Okinawa until January 1946.

Gwynne Curtis Jr. often remarked upon a particular bombing raid over Shanghai China on 17 July 1945 in which he had participated. This mission had been highly classified at the time and the purpose of the bombing raid was not revealed to him until the late 1970s when then United Stated States Treasury Secretary, W. Michael Blumenthal remarked publically about a bombing raid that he had survived during World War II as a young boy in Shanghai, China During World War II. Gwynne Curtis at last learned the purpose of the bombing that had haunted him for years.
During World War II, Shanghai China housed about 40,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The China Jewish concentration camp was known as the “Shanghai Ghetto”. Jewish refugees in Shanghai were semi-confined to a bombed-out slum by Japanese occupation forces, the only ghetto outside of Europe.
Late in the war, the Japanese, hoping that the Americans would not bomb the district inhabited by foreigners, had a radio transmitter and stored ammunition and oil in the “Shanghai Ghetto” restricted area. On July 17, 1945, Okinawa-based U.S. bombers attacked the radio station that had been directing the Japanese shipping lines. The bombs, leaving hundreds of Chinese and thirty-one European immigrants dead, also hit civilian areas and several hundred wounded.
Among the survivors of the Jewish concentration camp near Shanghai was W. Michael Blumenthal served who later served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Jimmy Carter.

In January of 1946, now Major Curtis was reassigned to Hawaii and became the Seventh Air Force Operations Officer, A3, at Hickam Field, Hawaii. MAJ Curtis later joined with General Thomas D. White’s staff of the Seventh Air Force at Hickam Air force Base, Hawaii as assistant chief of staff, intelligence, and headquarters commandant.

In 1947 Major Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, Bomber Flight Test Division. He attended Experimental Flight Test School and became a test pilot. MAJ Curtis was involved with early flight research and development of the B-36, B-47and B-58 bombers. He was on temporary duty in California when the flight-testing of jet aircraft began to move to Muroc Field in California (now Edwards Air Force Base). It was during this time that Chuck Yeager made the first flight breaking the speed of sound in a Bell X-1 aircraft. G. S. Curtis flew the then top secret data of that historic flight to Washington D. C.

On 20 January 1949 at the White Sands Missile Range, MAJ Curtis conducted the first flight of the Martin MGM-1 Matador, the Air Force’s first guided missile. The Matador was the first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile built by the United States. It was similar in concept to the German V-1, but the Matador included a radio link that allowed in-flight course corrections. This allowed accuracy to be maintained over greatly extended ranges of just under 1000 km. To allow these ranges, the Matador was powered by a small turbojet engine in place of the V-1's much less efficient pulsejet. When originally introduced, the Air Force referred to them as bombers, and assigned them the B-61 designation. It was later re-designated "TM-61", for "tactical missile", and finally "'MGM-1" when the US Department of Defense introduced the Joint Designation System in 1963.

In 1951 Gwynne Curtis Jr. was assigned to Verona, Italy with his family. There he was assigned as the United States Air Force liaison to the newly formed Headquarters Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Land south). He worked under the command of Italian General Maurizio Lazzaro de Castiglioni. In Verona he was involved with the task of carrying out studies, drawing up plans and making preparations for the defense of the North East Italian Theatre. This organization is now called Joint Command South (JC SOUTH), in Verona, Italy. It is one of four Joint Sub Regional Commands (JSRCs) under the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) in the military organization of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In 1957 Lieutenant Colonel Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. graduated from the Air War College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama.

Now a full Colonel in the United States Air Force, Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington D. C. from 1957 to 1958. There he was assigned to Headquarters United States Air Force in the Office of Chief of Staff for Guided Missiles. There he served variously as the Chief of the Strategic Division, Special Assistant to the Ballistic Missile Division and Secretary of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Committee with assignment to the Pacific Missile Range, California.

In 1958, Colonel Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. was transferred to Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Pacific Missile Range with headquarters at Point Mugu, California. There as the liaison officer for Air Force activity on the Pacific Missile Range, there he conducted further testing of the Matador, the Air Force’s first guided missile.
During COL Curtis’s duty at the Pacific Missile Range, he was also the Air Force Project Director for one of the earliest spy satellite programs. This was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) satellite reconnaissance system code-named DISCOVERER or CORONA. The satellites were designed to assess how rapidly the Soviet Union was producing long-range bombers and ballistic missiles, and where they were being deployed. The Corona reconnaissance spacecraft was launched into polar orbit to take photographic swaths as it passed over the Soviet Union. Corona was designed to collect its exposed film in a heat-resistant "bucket" or canister at the nose. This bucket would then reenter over the Pacific Ocean then jettison them in the film canister that came back to earth. A specially equipped aircraft would literally snag it out of the air as it descended by parachute. Strange as this sounds, the Corona program was very successful over the years, beginning with Discoverer XIV as it was snatched in midair by a C-119 cargo plane on 18 August 1960. It provided the earliest photos of the USSR's Plesetsk rocket base.

Colonel Curtis was the Air Force project director for the first successful mission when a Discoverer-13 capsule was launched atop a Thor-Agena rocket from Vandenberg AFB on August 10, 1960, and recovered after 17 orbits by USAF aircraft near the Hawaiian Islands. It was the first successful mission of the Discoverer program following twelve consecutive failures. The capsule contained an American flag, which was given to President Dwight Eisenhower in a ceremony at the Oval Office. Subsequent missions--including the very next capsule, Discoverer-14--returned exposed film of intelligence targets in the Soviet Union. Discoverer/Corona program was the world's first successful satellite reconnaissance program. Images returned to Earth in capsules of this type were instrumental in easing Cold War tensions caused by an erroneous belief in a "missile gap" favoring the USSR. As resolution of Corona's cameras improved, these images were also used for the verification of arms control treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Gwynne Curtis' last assignment with the Air Force was as the Air Force liaison to the TRW Company in Los Angles, California. TRW led the development of the Titan missile, which was later adapted to fly the Gemini missions. The company served the US Air Force as systems engineers on all subsequent Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) development efforts, but TRW never produced any missile hardware because of the conflict of interest. In 1960, Congress spurred the formation of the non-profit The Aerospace Corporation to provide systems engineering to the US government, but TRW continued to guide the ICBM efforts.

Gwynne S. Curtis Jr, upon retiring from active duty with the United States Air Force as a full Colonel in 1961, became an executive with the Ford Philco Aeronutronic plant in Newport Beach, California. There he specializing in developing defense weapons and aerospace technology. Aeronutronic was a defense and space related division of Ford Motor Company set up in 1956 as Aeronutronic Systems, Inc. In 1961 Ford purchased Philco and merged the two companies in 1963. Aeronutronic provided major support for the development of Project Space Track. Philco Aeronutronic became NASA's primary communications equipment vendor during the 1960s, also building the consoles in the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. began working in 1965 for the Lockheed Missiles and Space Division at Sunnyvale, California. He later transferred to Lockheed’s Van Nuys, California plant and lastly to the Newtown, Pennsylvania plant. Curtis’ work at Lockheed’s Missiles and Space Division involved the development of the Polaris program, followed later by other satellite programs. The UGM-27 Polaris was a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) built during the Cold War by Lockheed Missiles & Space Division in Sunnyvale, California for the United States Navy. The Polaris program evolved through Polaris (A2), Polaris (A3), Poseidon (C3) Trident I (C4) and ongoing with today's Trident II (D5). All of these were designed and managed at the Sunnyvale CA facility. Together, these are known as the Navy's Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Program. Lockheed Martin has been the sole provider of FBM missiles since 1956.
Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Jr. retired from his civilian career in 1977.

Gwynne Curtis’ beloved wife, Cornelia Ann (Bucky), died on the 24th of January 1981 while they were living in Monterey, Monterey, California.

Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Jr. was re-married to Doris Delyle Reasoner on the 11th of September 1983 in Kitsap, Washington.

Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Jr. passed away on 23 May 1989 at his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico and he is buried at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso, Texas.

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  • Maintained by: Clark Wilson
  • Originally Created by: US Veterans Affairs Office
  • Added: 25 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 546677
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Col Gwynne S Curtis, Jr (4 Sep 1917–24 May 1989), Find A Grave Memorial no. 546677, citing Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Clark Wilson (contributor 46792315) .