The Bronze Star - A Posthumous Award to Alexander Curry Ewing, WWII Glider Pilot

Family is a funny thing. For me, it's funny like a congealed salad mold, or maybe those tiny canned hot-dogs usually meant for babies. It's a novelty with dubious beginnings and we're not so sure we want to hand down the recipe.

AC Ewing was my father's father. I remember meeting him once at his home in Kansas. He had two matching dogs and a dining room that was open at both ends. I remember being asked firmly to Go Sit Down, and stop going in circles like a train (which is what I was doing in my mind.) I remember leaving with the impression that AC and his second wife didn't like kids much.

But this story really begins with my father. He took us to Oklahoma every summer to visit his grandparents, but not AC. He took us to Texas with his second wife, but ultimately lost custody. Eventually he severed ties with all of us, but I got his phone number through a genealogy contact. My dad asked me if any of his kids had graduated high school, and he sent me $50 for the phone bill. 

Dad went to live with AC when he knew his father was dying; I think he tried to replicate the tradition by moving in with my brother. Even though I was the eldest, the disappointment that I wasn't a boy had always been palpable. Dad was also disappointed that his son was disabled. 

But he went there, moved in, and ended up leaving again. The last time I talked to my father was by telephone as he was being discharged from a hospital. He told me I was mistaken; I didn't know him, he said, and I must be looking for someone else. My father hung up on me.

Despite, or maybe because of, our crippled pattern of family, I've always been fascinated with our family trees. My Ewing family's migration to Texas has been well-documented by two different family members; I own the books. My great-uncle JR Ewing (nobody shot him) participated in the Ewing Y-DNA project. It was through Ancestry that I was contacted by someone from the National WWII Glider Pilots Committee Silent Wings Museum Foundation. Patricia Overman gave me this information: 

Your grandfather was involved in what was dubbed the Battle of Burp Gun Corner on March 24 1945 as a member of the 435th Glider Pilot Infantry Company. The 435th was assigned to take a defensive role on the line with the 17th Airborne and on the eve of the 24th the Germans tried to penetrate the crossroads where they were dug in.

These men were pilots and even though they had infantry training prior to this mission this was not a usual day in the office for them. The Germans tried to get through, not once but three times, and the Glider pilots held them off. It was a significant achievement.

Their commander, Charles Gordon, put in paperwork requesting that all the men in the battle be awarded the Bronze Star Medal. A month and a half later the war ended and the logistics of getting men home began.

In 1947 Charles was awarded the Silver Star Medal but also found out that his men did not receive the award due them. Paperwork was apparently lost in the return home. He vowed not to take out the Silver Star from his drawer until the 244 men involved in the battle were given their due.

Because so many men had left the military, a detective was to find them. The majority of them were found and at the 50th Anniversary they were awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Approximately 60 men were not located. Due to Social media, we (the NWWIIGPC) are able to find families that we were not able to find before.

The volunteers of the NWWIIGPC research team made arrangements to send me the Bronze Star and certificate. It was an odd moment for me, opening that package. Until now, the only things I knew about my grandfather had been filtered through his son. This was tangible gratitude to a man who'd married his second wife overseas while his first wife and two sons waited for him at his parents' house in Oklahoma.

A man's name in ornate font - Alexander Curry Ewing - who'd only been a set of initials to me, and not even a relationship like grandfather. A man who'd had another life after the one that brought me into this world, and apparently a life before that one, too - his second wife had also been a military officer stationed in Germany. That's where they met. I'm not even sure they knew he was a hero.

The research team provided an additional tidbit: Two 77th gliders were forced to abort before reaching the LZ: one was piloted by Lt. George Johnson and Flight Officer Gentry, the other by Lt. Herbert Carter and Lt. Ewing. Loads in these gliders went into combat area by truck. 

I try to stave off wry pettiness:  it seems very much a Ewing thing to have been in a glider that failed. It's not for lack of trying that we have these beanstalk tales. But in the broader picture - the story of America - I am proud in a way that AC Ewing probably never was. Not proud - edified. We did a thing, my family, and it mattered to some. For that I am grateful. So many thanks to Patricia Overman, Sharon McCullar, and all the awesome people of Silent Wings.

The National WWI Glider Pilot Committee Leon B Spencer Research Team is made up of 17 volunteers across the US and Europe. There is no charge for their research efforts. All they ask is that families provide, in exchange for time, any pertinent documents, photos, letters, etc., so they can improve their glider pilot's story.

If you have a WWII Glider Pilot in your family tree, please reach out to these wonderful folks at the Silent Wings Museum: National WWII Glider Pilot Committee Silent Wings Museum Foundation.  

Here's an article on the Battle of Burp Gun Corner in Air Force Magazine: 
Operation Varsity, by by Contributing Editor John L. Frisbee

SILENT WINGS MUSEUM FOUNDATION, INC.
6202 N. I-27
Lubbock, Texas 79403-9710

certificate with bars and star

AC Ewing's Bronze Star

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