Life Member of the Association of Citadel Men

The four years we spent in the Corps of Cadets in Charleston, South Carolina were all about becoming “Citadel Men”. Receiving our class rings during our final fall semester was one of the crowning moments of that process. Senior Parade when we joined the “Long Grey Line” and receiving our diplomas were another two of those moments. There was a fourth crowning moment…

One of the things I remember vividly from Graduation Day was the alumni associations’ ceremony to bestow upon me, and many of my fellow classmates, a life membership in the Association of Citadel Men. The paid-in-full life membership was a gift from my parents. It was an event I will never forget, and a gift I will always treasure.

Brief History of the Citadel Alumni Association [1]
1842 – The Citadel is founded
1852 – Association of Graduates Founded.
1934 – Name changed to The Association of Citadel Men
1994 – Women join the Corps of Cadets
1997 – The Association became the current Citadel Alumni Association

The inscribed plaque I received that day has never hung on a wall. I have moved too many times to too many places since. It has remained packed away in a box. Twenty-three years later, I can still describe exactly how it looks. The alumni association seal is its most prominent feature. That seal is something instantly recognizable to those who dearly value it. Like our rings, it is full of meaning.

I was also given a paper membership card to carry with me in my wallet. This way I could identify myself, whenever necessary, as a member of the Association of Citadel Men. Being overseas, far away from Charleston, it, too, found its way into a box. Sometime after 1997, the year the Association changed to the Citadel Alumni Association, I received a new plastic membership card.

Membership: All graduates of The Citadel, those who had to leave prior to graduation due to a national emergency as determined by the Board, and ex-cadets who have completed their freshman year shall, upon timely payment of appropriate dues, become Members of the Association; provided, however, that no person shall be accepted whose attendance as a student was terminated in other than honorable circumstances.[2]

Last April, I started to carry my membership card with me in honor of First Lieutenant Peter Franklin Cureton, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps., Class of 1940.

Peter Franklin Cureton, Jr., was killed in action on November 21, 1944 after the B-17 bomber he was piloting was shot down over Merseburg, Germany. His 28th mission was his last. Ironically, the target of his first mission, on July 29, 1944, had also been Merseburg. Eight of the bomber’s crew of nine died that day. Peter Cureton, Jr. now rests in peace at Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E Row 8 Grave 9.

Situated outside of St. Avold, France just a few kilometers from the German border, the Lorraine American Cemetery is the largest of the American WWII cemeteries in Europe with 10,489 of our military dead buried there. Another two Citadel Men, Richard P. Padget and Joseph C. Davis are also interred at the cemetery[*]. I and my family visited the cemetery and paid our respects in March 2011. A year later when I had learned his plane’s serial number, I also learned that 4 members of his crew – T/Sgt Donald W. Bourlier, S/Sgt Joseph A. Burford, 1Lt Carl L. Ulrich, and S/Sgt Erwin M. Celichowski – are also buried at Lorraine.[3]

It is well known that the Germans kept thorough records. Reading through 1Lt. Cureton’s Missing Air Crew Report (MACR), I came across some included Luftwaffe forms. What struck me was the record of the documents found on Peter when German soldiers recovered his body: 2 Certificates (WC No. 21377), 2 Instrument Pilot Certificates, 1 Member’s Certification of Ass. Of Citadel Men.[4]

First, I could not believe my eyes. I experienced a rush, a sense of accomplishment. I had searched out and found a sign of The Citadel. It took a few moments for it to sink in…to come to the moving realization…that this young man valued his membership so much that he carried a tangible reminder of it wherever he went…to the other side of the world…into battle…to his death.

I pulled my plaque out of its box today. At the bottom is inscribed:

“Peace and Honor”                              “God and Country”

Peter Franklin Cureton, Jr., Class of 1940, was a Citadel Man.


Note 9 May 2014:
[*] The first time we visited the cemetery, we knew only of 1Lt. Cureton. A year and a half later, we had also learned of 2Lt. Padgett and were able to visit his grave as well in February 2014. Shortly after that visit, we learned of LTC Davis. We will pay our respects to all three on our next visit.

[1] History of CAA Timeline,
[2] Bylaws of The Citadel Alumni Association
[3] American Battle Monuments Commission WWII database
[4] MACR 11199, NARA