S/Sgt. Cushwa, George J.
Platoon Sergeant, 1st Platoon, Company D, 511th PIR
January 14, 1923 - October 10, 1983 (Age 60) - gravesite
Citations: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Badge, Philippine Liberation Medal with service star, the American Defense Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Battle Stars and one Arrowhead
George Joseph Cushwa was born January 14, 1923 in Roxboro, North Carolina to George Joseph Cushwa Sr. and Bessie May Pettigrew. George grew up in Roxboro, attending Mars Hill College then Davidson College.
In 1942, George registered with his local draft board, then after joining the United States Army he volunteered for parachute duty and was sent to Camp Toccoa, Georgia in January of 1942 where he was assigned to 1st Platoon, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The general history of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment are covered in full in the new book, WHEN ANGEL'S FALL: FROM TOCCOA TO TOKYO, THE 511TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR II, available in the regimental online store, on Amazon or wherever military history books are sold.
On December 3, 1943 he married Rachel Gray Hunter Cushwa in York, South Carolina and together they had four beautiful children: Michael Hunter Cushwa, Ann Gordon Cushwa, Georgiana Rachel Cushwa, and Susan Gray Cushwa.
When the 511th PIR was sent overseas in 1944, George fought with 1st Platoon through the 511th's brutal Leyte and Luzon campaigns where he distinguished himself as a solid soldier, one whom his buddies knew could be relied on when things got tough.
What many don't know is that while George was serving overseas, his father George J. Cushwa Sr. died in September of 1944 of a heart attack at age 51, a loss that was felt by not just the Cushwa family, but the Roxboro, NC community as well. I do not know if George went home for his father's funeral (most likely not given the time it would take to get home from New Guinea where the 511th PIR was at the time), but he participated in the Leyte campaign where he earned the Combat Infantryman Badge while fighting the enemy in the island's mountains and jungles. On December 23, D Company effected the division's breakout from the mountains with their famous Rat's Ass Charge in which SGT George Cushwa Jr. led 1st Platoon's 2nd Squad. Although he was terribly sick with what was likely malaria, George refused to "quit the fight" and after successfully leading his squad that day, Cushwa had to be carried down to Ormoc Bay with the regiment on Christmas Day of 1944.
Platoon Leader 1LT Andrew Carrico put George in for the Bronze Star due to his effective leadership and courage during the engagement. Carrico would later praise George highly, then said, "He was a hell of a nice guy."
George then participated in the regiment's jump on Tagaytay Ridge south of Manila on February 3, 1945. After their canopies opened, 1LT Carrico noticed that his boots were touching the canopy of his Platoon Guide, SGT George Cushwa. Carrico noted with some humor, "Needless to say, we each adjusted our decent to avoid entanglement."
D Company then led the 11th Airborne Division's push into southern Manila where George was wounded in the Battle for the Courtyard at Imus on February 5, 1945. George was wounded during the Battle for Manila, possibly at Imus or sometime shortly thereafter, but returned to the regiment sometime in late June or early July to participate in the clearing of Southern Luzon.
After the war George Cushwa returned to North Carolina and was the Best Man for the marriage of D Company's Robert B. Lunsford to his wife Peggy Whitten on January 12, 1946.and graduated from Appalachian State College in 1949 and went on to become a high school teacher and an award-winning football coach at Bethel Hill ("coach of athletics" in June 1949) and Roxboro Highs, the latter his own alma mater, before going to Thomasville in 1959. George is remembered for helping to establish Thomasville High School as a football powerhouse during his highly successful tenure there.
From that time until 1983, his Bulldog teams recorded marks of 90-47-6, including a Western North Carolina High School Activities Association (WNCHSAA) championship. His overall career record stood at 159-72-8.
George's 1964 team was recognized by the NCHSAA as part of the "The Notable Ninety" and the following is from the NCHSAA press release of "The Notable Ninety" back in June of 2004:
THOMASVILLE | Thomasville | 1964
Record: 11-1 Coach: George Cushwa NCHSAA Western 3A Champion
Considered by many including two state newspapers to be the best team in the state in 1964. The team ranked third in the nation in total points scored, 364, fourth in the nation in rushing offense averaging 303 yards per game, and ninth in the nation in total offense with 383 yards per game. Coach George Cushwa said "This is the greatest backfield I have ever coached and also the greatest team I have ever coached." Ten players went on to receive full football scholarships including halfback Ron Byerly, fullback Charles Bowers and halfback Bill Bobo.
Cushwa coached in both the Shrine Bowl and East-West games and was active in the North Carolina Coaches Association, serving as president in 1975. He is in the North Carolina Association of Educators Hall of Fame and the Thomasville football stadium now bears his name.
In 1992, George was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Educators Hall of Fame (NCHSAA) and the Thomasville (North Carolina) football stadium now bears his name.
George passed away in Thomasville, NC on October 10th, 1983 at the age of 60. Lest We Forget.
To learn more about the 11th Airborne Division in World War II, please consider purchasing a copy of our books on the Angels:
1. WHEN ANGELS FALL: FROM TOCCOA TO TOKYO, THE 511TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR II, available in the regimental online store, on Amazon or wherever military history books are sold.
2. DOWN FROM HEAVEN: THE HISTORY OF THE 11TH AIRBORNE DIVISION IN WORLD WAR II - VOL 1. CAMP TOCCOA THROUGH LEYTE CAMPAIGN, available in the regimental online store, on Amazon or wherever military history books are sold.