Gwynne Sutherland Curtis Junior was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He started college at the University of Texas at Austin. He secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and graduated in the Class of 1941. His West Point classmates gave him the nickname "Pooge".
Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. was married shortly after graduation at the West Point Cadet Chapel to Cornelia Ann Buckman.
Gwynne was initially commissioned in the Army Coast Artillery but was detailed to the Army Air Corps for Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas. He graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas and then commissioned in the U. S. Army Air Corps as a pilot.
He served in the defense of Iceland, April 1942 to Jun 1944 as a P-40 and P-39 fighter pilot and engineering officer for the 33d Fighter Squadron at Reykjvik, Iceland. He was engaged in flying defensive patrols over the north Atlantic. On August 14, 1942, then Lt. Curtis, flying a P-40C and 2nd Lieut Elza Shaham, flying a P-38F, shared in the destruction of a Focke- Wulf FW-200C-3 to obtain the first United States victory over a Luftwaffe aircraft.
When Gwynne Curtis returned to the states, he went to multi-engine flight school and trained in A-26 Marauder light bomber aircraft. He was then assigned to the Pacific theater at Okinawa, April-July 1945 He was there assigned to the Seventh Air Force, 319th Bombardment Group (Light). He flew missions to Japan and China, attacking airdromes, shipping marshalling yards, industrial centers, and other objectives. In January 1946, he returned with General Thomas White to Hawaii and became the Seventh Air Force Operations Officer, A3, at Hickam Field.
In 1947 Gwynne Curtis was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, Bomber Test, Flight Test Division. He attended Experimental Flight Test School and became a test pilot. He was involved with flight research and development of B-36, B-47and B-58 bombers. He was on temporary duty in California when the flight testing of jet aircraft began to move to Muroc Field in California (now Edwards Air Force Base). It was during this time that Chuck Yeager made the first flight breaking the speed of sound in a Bell X-1 aircraft. G. S. Curtis flew the then top secret data of that historic flight to Washington D. C.
In 1951 Gwynne Curtis was assigned to Verona, Italy with his family. There he was assigned as the United states Air Force liaison to the newly formed Headquarters Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Land south). He worked under the command of Italian General Maurizio Lazzaro de Castiglioni. In Verona he was involved with the task of carrying out studies, drawing up plans and making preparations for the defence of the North East Italian Theatre. This organization is now called Joint Command South (JC SOUTH), in Verona, Italy. It is one of four Joint Sub Regional Commands (JSRCs) under the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) in the military organization of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
He was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington D. C. from 1954 to 1956.
In 1957 LTC Gwynne S. Curtis Jr. graduated from the Air War College at Maxwel AFB in Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1958, Gwynne Curtis, now a full Colonel in the Air Force he was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Pacific Missile Range, California. There he was the Air Force Project Director for one of the earliest spy satellite programs. This was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) satellite reconnaissance system code-named DISCOVERER or CORONA. The satellites were designed to assess how rapidly the Soviet Union was producing long-range bombers and ballistic missiles, and where they were being deployed. The Corona reconnaissance spacecraft was launched into polar orbit to take photographic swaths as it passed over the Soviet Union. Corona was designed to collect its exposed film in a heat-resistant "bucket" or canister at the nose. This bucket would then reenter over the Pacific Ocean then jettison them in the film canister which came back to earth. A specially equipped aircraft would literally snag it out of the air as it descended by parachute. Strange as this sounds, the Corona program was very successful over the years, beginning with Discoverer XIV as it was snatched in midair by a C-119 cargo plane on 18 August 1960. It provided the earliest photos of the USSR's Plesetsk rocket base.
Gwynne Curtis was the Air Force project director for the first successful mission when a Discoverer-13 capsule which was launched atop a Thor-Agena rocket from Vandenberg AFB on August 10, 1960, and recovered after 17 orbits by USAF aircraft near the Hawaiian Islands. It was the first successful mission of the Discoverer program following twelve consecutive failures. The capsule contained an American flag, which was given to President Dwight Eisenhower in a ceremony at the Oval Office. Subsequent missions--including the very next capsule, Discoverer-14--returned exposed film of intelligence targets in the Soviet Union. Discoverer/Corona program was the world's first successful satellite reconnaissance program. Images returned to Earth in capsules of this type were instrumental in easing Cold War tensions caused by an erroneous belief in a "missile gap" favoring the USSR. As resolution of Corona's cameras improved, these images were also used for the verification of arms control treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Gwynne Curtis's last assignment with the Air Force was as the Air Force liaison to the TRW company in Los Angles, California.
After retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel in 1961, he became an executive at the Ford Philco Aeronutronics in Newport Beach, California. There he specializing in developing defense weapons and aerospace technology
Later Gwynne moved to the Lockheed Space Center in Sunnyvale, California and retired from his civilian career in 1977.
Gwynne Sutherland Curtis JR passed away on 23 May 1989 at his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.