My Journey with Lt. Cureton
Everyone thinks working in a library is just checking in and out books and that you have a lot of time to read. Let me tell you that is not what happens. You never know what is going to happen in the library on any given day. One moment you can be helping a person find a book, the next you can be moving items from the museum and archives, and that is where we found Lt. Cureton. Well, not him personally, but his footlocker with his possessions in it and that is how my journey began.
The Daniel Library, where The Citadel Museum and Archives is located, had been under renovation. The museum and archives were closed and all the items were put in storage. When most of the renovations were done, it was time to move everything back to the library. Once the boxes were moved back, it was time to open and inventory everything, no quick and easy task. We were about half way through the process when the footlocker was uncovered. There was something about that footlocker that intrigued me and when we opened it, intrigue turned to amazement. Here, in front of us, was a variety of items that told a story, the story of a young man, a Citadel graduate, who went to war. This would make an awesome display. Numerous questions ran through my mind. Questions like how The Citadel Museum did and Archives end up with Lt. P.F. Cureton’s footlocker and its possessions? But the most important question to me was, what happened to Lt. Cureton?
Sitting at my desk eating my lunch that day, I decided to do a search for Lt. P.F. Cureton Jr. I had his name and his serial number from the footlocker, so let’s see what comes up. I went to the Daniel Library’s databases and started looking for some type of genealogy database. We have access to ancestry.com, cool, that should give me some information on him. What came up was information that he was buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. I pulled up his Headstone Inscription and Interment Record. I learned that he was killed in action on November 21, 1944, six months before the end of the war in Germany. I printed out the record and put it to the side on my desk.
Every so often, Lt. Cureton would just pop up in my thoughts. I don’t know if it was because my grandfather was in WWII, or that I come from a military family. Among myself, my husband, father, grandfather, uncles and cousins, I think we have had someone in every branch of the service. I just kept thinking people need to see these things. It finally dawned on me in March that the perfect time would be May. Why May? Well, Memorial Day, the day that is set aside to remember those that have died in service to the United States. Lt. Cureton did just that and he could stand for all The Citadel graduates who have died in service. I took the idea to a couple of co-workers who thought it was a good idea. I brought the idea to our director, LTC Goble, who gave his blessing to do it.
I gathered a team of co-workers, Capt. Marie Rose, Adjunct Professor Deborah Turkewitz, and Library Admin. Kathy Greco. We then recruited a few men with military connections, SSgt. Kyle Rose, MSgt (Retired) Tim King, and former Navy JAG officer Rob Turkewitz. We needed their muscles to refurbish the display cases and they did a wonderful job. Kathy did an awesome job of cleaning the glass in the cases.
While the guys were working on the display cases, the rest of us started doing research on Lt. Cureton and planning the display. We learned more about him more than we could put on display and we created a website, http://library.citadel.edu/cureton/home for all the extra information. The 303rd Bombardment Group, http://www.303rdbg.com/, was a fountain of information about his military career, his missions, pictures, and his final Missing Air Crew Report (MARC). The Citadel Memorial Europe Foundation, https://thecitadelmemorialeurope.wordpress.com/, was an excellent source of information also. We learned from other sources that Lt. Cureton’s mother, father and sister have passed on and there were no nieces or nephews. There are may be some distant cousins out there somewhere, but otherwise there is just his Citadel family to remember him. For this Memorial Day, the Daniel Library staff and faculty will be his family. We hope that you will come see Lt. Cureton's display and remember those who have gone before and after him in service to the United States.
I know that in the near future we will be packing Lt. Cureton’s possessions back into his footlocker and placing it in the museum storage room, but Lt. Cureton’s memory will always be a part of my family. Now he is at home once again at The Citadel.
--- Pamela King, Cataloging and Government Documents Specialist