Doris [my grandmother] has two relatives that reached the General ranks in the Air Force. She had a cousin in Ardmore named Jack Thurman. He was in the Seabees during WW2 and was a 2nd Class Petty Officer. He had two sons that went to West Point Military Academy. One of the boys reached Brigadier General. He was the commander of Zweibrucken AB Germany when Wayne [my uncle] was stationed there. The other one reached Major General. Wayne has a book written by a (now deceased) General that was the first commander of Space Command at Colorado Springs. Well, in his book he told how General Thurman was used as the pit bull of the Air Force. If the Air Force had a base commander that the gen. staff at the Pentagon wasn’t pleased with they sent Thurman to the base. He would go there and find enough to fire the commander. What a job. I knew old Jack, he was a butcher at a grocery store. He must really be proud of his sons to make flag rank (general or admiral).
Note: You can read more about Major General James D. Thurman, one of the men referenced in this section of my grandfather’s letter, at his Ft. Hood, Texas biography page. He is currently — I believe — Commander of the Multinational Division, Baghdad, commanding 29,000 troops from all nations allied with America and fighting in Iraq. He is not in the Air Force, but rather the Army. An informative article, Why I Serve: Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, helps unravel more details about Maj. Gen. Thurman’s background:
FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 26, 2004 — “I came from a very patriotic family,” explained Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman on why he joined the Army.
“When I was just a little guy, I remember going to Memorial Day with my grandfather, a World War I vet, and the whole town would turn out,” recalled the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division. “He didn’t talk much about being in war, and he didn’t ask for medals or recognition. He made me realize early in life that the liberties and freedom we enjoy are not free.”
In the northwest corner of Thurman’s office, a rubber chicken hangs on a polished wooden plaque. The message is simple: “There ain’t no free chicken in the world, you’ve got to work for stuff.”
He said the quote represents a lesson he learned from his grandfather during his upbringing in the rural Oklahoma town of Marietta, population 3,000.
Framed flags, certificates, awards and photographs cover the walls of his office; memorabilia from almost three decades of service to his country.
“There are memories and people attached to everything on these walls,” Thurman said recently. “They represent something positive to me, even the rubber chicken.
Thurman’s father and three uncles served in World War II and Korea. And Thurman still vividly remembers the day in 1966 when his older brother arrived home from college and told his parents he was leaving school to serve in Vietnam.
“There are values and a sense of duty and responsibility to this country that I was raised with,” he said.
“There are 10 divisions in the Army and I have the honor to command one. Being with soldiers and being out there making a difference in the world, that’s why I serve. The most precious thing we have are the sons and daughters of this country and I am proud to serve with them.”
(Tam Cummings is editor of the Fort Hood, Texas, Sentinel News.)
- Iraq Pictures (blog)
- New Iraqi Government Initiative is Step Toward Brighter Future
- Chaplain Preston’s Report
- Incoming general has strong ties to largest Army post
A Google search will return a lot of sites mentioning Major General James Thurman, as he was recently in the news when he ordered an investigation into the killing of of a family of four in Mahmoudiya. I can’t find any information on a second general in the family, but did find several references to two Thurman brothers who were generals in the Air Force. They were born in North Carolina, and I am not sure I am related to them for that reason — as far as I know, the Thurmans in my family lived in the Oklahoma/Texas areas in the last 100 years. In a recent e-mail, my fellow Thurman researcher and second cousin once removed, Chris Stofel, said, “I’m attaching a letter I sent to our cousin Jerry Thurman, grandson of Albert, a little while back. Jerry’s brother Jim (James D.) Thurman is a general in the army.” Maj. Gen. Thurman and his brother Jerry would also be my second cousins once removed. My information is that Jerry Thurman is a retired colonel. I think it could be that our cousins, James and Jerry Thurman, were confused with the Thurman brothers General Maxwell Reid Thurman and Lt. General John R. Thurman, III (who are no relation as far as I know). Doing some digging, I was able to find references to the book my uncle has. It must be From One Stripe to Four Stars by Gen. James V. Hartinger, who was the first commander of Space Command at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, but I can’t search inside the book to see the full name of the General Thurman he referred to. It is probable that it is either General Maxwell Reid Thurman or Lt. General John R. Thurman III rather than my own relative, Maj. Gen. James Thurman.
Click on the thumbnail below to see an image of Albert James Thurman’s WWI Draft Registration Card (Albert James Thurman was the grandfather of James Thurman and Jerry Thurman). Note: It is a poor quality image and difficult to read.
I located Albert James Thurman on the 1930 Census with his wife Mollie. Open this thumbnail image and scroll down to line 58 (near the top):
He has a son Jack W., who is 6 years old. This is my grandmother’s cousin Jack that my grandfather referred to in his letter. Here you can view Albert James Thurman’s 1920 census record:
I think this is an interesting example of how a story is passed down or told in a family, and details change or are otherwise unclear, which can result in conclusions that may not be correct.