Veteran and former CSU prof donates rare WWII glider uniform to Avenir Museum

Video by Avery Martin

“Please take care of this.”

That’s what 93-year-old Jim Ingram told staff of CSU’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising on May 23 as he donated the complete, pristine uniform he wore during his World War II service in the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment.

The CSU alumnus and professor emeritus in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is one of the few living veterans who flew into Germany on a glider during the war.

Jim Ingram and Katie Knowles
Avenir Museum Curator Katie Knowles, left, examines the uniform with Jim Ingram

“They were completely defenseless,” says his wife Peggy, an Avenir volunteer. When he was assigned to the 17th Airborne Division, he says, he was advised by a fellow serviceman to “stay away from the gliders.” He says they were mostly made of fabric.

The flight

Ingram says his glider was one of two towed by an airplane as part of Operation Varsity in 1945, and the three-hour flight was quite cold and made him airsick. He adds that due to German anti-aircraft fire, his small squad tried to reach their target and land the glider as quickly as possible so they could scatter away from the aircraft on foot. It was his one and only glider mission.

Ingram, who taught in CSU’s veterinary school for 38 years before retiring in 1996, proudly pointed to the various medals and patches on the rare uniform, describing what each one meant. The uniform, packed into a cardboard Harry and David’s fruit box by his mother decades ago, includes the decorated blouse, or jacket, plus a shirt, two hats, three ties, a belt, a pair of pants and a yellow handkerchief worn by the soldiers as an identifier, to reduce the chances of getting hit by friendly fire.

“As far as I know, it hasn’t been unbuttoned since it was put in that box,” he says.

Special meaning

Peggy Ingram adds that the uniform has always held special meaning for her husband.

“This has been important to him and his life,” she says. “He didn’t want our kids to wear it for Halloween or have it go to Goodwill. It means a lot to him that [the museum is] accepting it and that other people will be able to see it and learn from it as well.”

Photos by Avery Martin

Ingram’s glider mission came after he sustained an injury during the Battle of the Bulge and recovered in England. The native of Rawlins, Wyoming, received the Purple Heart for his service. When he returned to his home state, Ingram got a job at Brush Creek Ranch near Saratoga, where he worked with cattle and became fascinated by the veterinarian who cared for them.

History with CSU

Ingram graduated from CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 1952, then went into private practice for about five years before joining the faculty. His initial specialty at CSU was large animal surgery, then neurology. When he first came to CSU as a student, he lived in the Glenn Morris Field House, back when it had a dirt floor. Then he found better digs in South Hall.

Jim Ingram's CSU graduation photo
Jim Ingram in 1952, the year he graduated from CSU with his veterinary degree.

“After living in the old gym, South Hall was pretty plush,” he recalls with a smile.

It’s not the first donation the Ingrams have made to the Avenir. The museum also has a pair of “sheepherder britches” that Jim began wearing while in private practice. By chance, Peggy came across the pants while volunteering at the Avenir and was the one who labeled them.

It was one of many full circles in the story of the Ingrams and CSU.

“We are so appreciative of this donation,” Doreen Beard, the Avenir’s director of operations and engagement, told the Ingrams during their visit. “The uniform is in incredibly good condition.”

The uniform will be put on display at the Avenir Museum this fall.

The Avenir Museum is based in the Department of Design and Merchandising, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.