Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
William H. Cunningham

Native Kansas Citian and was a naval officer during World War II. Served as fire control superintendent of the U.S.S. Missouri. Present at the launching (Jan. 29, 1944) and the commissioning (June 11, 1944) of the Missouri and was at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Independence, Missouri
April 18, 1980
by Niel M. Johnson

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


NOTICE
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened May, 1983
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
William H. Cunningham

Independence, Missouri
April 18, 1980
by Niel M. Johnson

[1]

JOHNSON: Mr. Cunningham, I think we'll start, as I mentioned earlier, with some background information. Do you want to tell us where and when you were born and where you were raised?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I was born in Kansas City in 1911, on Gillham Road south of Westport High School. I went to the University of Kansas, took an engineering degree; and went with General Electric Company in 1933. And while there I spent a few months working on some of the gunfire directors for the Tuscaloosa, an old antique cruiser that was used in the Battle of the North Atlantic for a little

[2]

while. And I went into x-ray work for G.E. and became an x-ray specialist. In 1942 I joined the Navy thinking that I would be able to do x-ray work on mines, which were giving the Navy a lot of trouble at the time, and after nine months delay was sent to Fort Schuyler for normal ordnance training.

Well, the Navy, as they usually do in their assignments, looked up the fact that I had worked on fire control equipment some ten years before and decided I was better needed in the Brooklyn Navy yard, although the equipment that I had worked on was absolutely obsolete at the time, and they even skipped my training in fire control school and everything else. So I literally had to learn on the job without anybody knowing it for a while. I was assigned as a fire control ship superintendent, supervising the repair and installation of anti-aircraft equipment and computers.

JOHNSON: On the Missouri?

[3]

CUNNINGHAM: No, on destroyers, cruisers, anything that came into the yard. And even some foreign ships, Phoebe, the Ajax, English cruisers, and the Gloire a French cruiser, for instance, and destroyers as I said. But when the Missouri was launched I was assigned as fire control superintendent on that, and that became my permanent assignment from then until the time the ship left.

JOHNSON: If we can back up just a little bit at this point, you mentioned growing up here in Kansas City.

CUNNINGHAM: That's right.

JOHNSON: And getting your education here?

CUNNINGHAM: The University of Kansas.

JOHNSON: The University of Kansas. You had a bachelor's in...

CUNNINGHAM: Industrial engineering.

[4]

JOHNSON: So, with a bachelor's in industrial. engineering, how did you get into the military?

CUNNINGHAM: I went to work for General Electric; they do not care whether you're industrial, mechanical, or electrical. At least at that time, they had very little interest in which it was, that you had to be trained over again anyway. And I got into x-ray work which was very little to do with industrial work when you get right down to it.

JOHNSON: With General Electric?

CUNNINGHAM: With General Electric. And I joined the Navy; I was in Oklahoma City at the time.

JOHNSON: When was that?

CUNNINGHAM: 1942.

JOHNSON: So you were working with General Electric at the time. This was before Pearl Harbor?

CUNNINGHAM: No, after Pearl Harbor, in '42. Everybody did; all my friends did.

[5]

As a matter of fact, I went back with General Electric and retired five years ago, early, after 37 years.

JOHNSON: Did I get the date you were born?

CUNNINGHAM: June 28, 1911. I'm a lot older than you are.

JOHNSON: You were 30 years old then when you joined the Navy.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, but they were drafting an awful lot of people in Oklahoma. If you remember Oklahoma had one of the highest ratios of Navy enlistees in the United States. For some reason, the drier the state, the more they are attracted to the ocean.

JOHNSON: And you were in Oklahoma working for General Electric at the time?

CUNNINGHAM: That's right, Oklahoma City; traveling over the state.

[6]

JOHNSON: So, you didn't live in Kansas City after you graduated from college?

CUNNINGHAM: No. As a matter of fact, I've only been back three or four times, My parents died here years ago.

JOHNSON: When was the first time you became aware of Senator Truman, or of Mr. Truman?

CUNNINGHAM: I first saw Truman during the period '26-'33. At that time the Muehlebach Hotel was the meeting place for all the high school and college students in Kansas City -- and the Grill was the only location for some of the best bands in the country. It was also the meeting place for most of the politicians of the country.

JOHNSON: But your father was acquainted with Mr. Truman?

CUNNINGHAM: He had a speaking acquaintance but I imagine half the county could make the same claim. After the depression my father worked for the grain outfit under Wallace who was his father-in-law, I guess.

[7]

JOHNSON: Oh, your father worked for the grain exchange, the futures market?

CUNNINGHAM: He worked for two of the Board of Trade companies, and then went to work for the Government sometime about '34-'36.

JOHNSON: What was his first name?

CUNNINGHAM: Allan, Allan Cunningham.

JOHNSON: You know, Mr. Truman's father speculated in grain and then lost his money in the market.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, my father worked for the Government. He was one of these men that blended the wheat from various elevators to make up a shipload of a certain grade of wheat. I don't know the technical term for it.

JOHNSON: Did he happen to know Mr. Truman's father?

CUNNINGHAM: No.

JOHNSON: You knew Mr. Truman by reputation before he...

[8]

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, by reputation, of course. I didn't know him that personally, but by reputation, fine.

JOHNSON: You didn't see him or meet him until when?

CUNNINGHAM: I met him in the Navy yard. I was introduced to him.

JOHNSON: That was the first time you met him?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, that was the first time I was introduced. I'd see him outside going into the store, but that doesn't count.

JOHNSON: Do you recall when he was a judge, presiding judge?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, indeed I do.

JOHNSON: And what was his reputation then?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, his reputation was fine, because I helped fight Pendergast when I was in the University of Kansas. A lot of my friends were hurt in '32 in trying to fight them. I had gone back to

[9]

Schenectady, so I wasn't involved.

JOHNSON: Some of your friends were involved in politics, local politics?

CUNNINGHAM: They were all involved in politics. There was quite a young sprouting movement among a lot of the young folks to fight Pendergast at that time. But Truman was never at all mixed up as a part of it. He was one man that I don't think Pendergast ever touched or tried to touch, although they were good friends.

JOHNSON: Then, after being presiding judge from 1926 to '34 he was elected to the Senate.

CUNNINGHAM: Well,, you see, a judge here is not a judge like everyplace else. He was literally a commissioner, building highways and supervising. He was not a judge; I never did know why they called it a judge.

JOHNSON: I guess that's an old Southern custom.

CUNNINGHAM: I guess it is, but I've been down in an

[10]

awful lot of Southern states since then, and I've never heard of it yet in another state.

JOHNSON: You were living in Oklahoma in the early thirties and mid-thirties?

CUNNINGHAM: No, I went out there in '35. I was from Chicago, and stayed in Oklahoma until the war and then went back until '48, and then went to Baltimore and lived there until about five years ago.

JOHNSON: But your father was still living here, your parents?

CUNNINGHAM: That's right.

JOHNSON: So they kind of kept you up-to-date on local politics?

CUNNINGHAM: Up until my father died, about ten years ago.

JOHNSON: Did he ever talk about supporting Mr. Truman?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, he supported him. I'm a Republican,

[11]

and even when he came back to Baltimore, he let me take him clear downtown to register and darned if he didn't register as a Democrat.

JOHNSON: Well, wasn't he a Democrat by background?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, by background. His father in Lima, Ohio, was a Democrat too; it was a Democratic family, all but me.

JOHNSON: I guess this moves us up to 19...

CUNNINGHAM: Well, in my opinion, Mr. Truman has more admirers among the Republicans than he has among the Democrats.

JOHNSON: Yes, it's kind of a bipartisan support.

CUNNINGHAM: He's one of the very few men, as I read history, that has bipartisan admirers, yes.

JOHNSON: Do you remember when he was a Senator and was serving as chairman of this investigating committee? This would have been, I guess, after you had joined the Navy. He became chairman of

[12]

that committee, in March of 1941, and served until the time he was nominated as Vice President in 1944. Do you remember anything about investigations being done by this committee between '41 and '44?

CUNNINGHAM: Only what I read in the paper. I had a lot of confidence in Truman. I knew that if Truman would do it, he would do as good a job as he did here on the highways, and the things he supervised here. In my opinion, Kansas City got a very, very good job. I realize that Pendergast paved one big project every year. I remember the year he paved Brush Creek as a yearly project. He had to move so much concrete every year. And, of course, Truman's projects all used concrete. That's a coincidence, but Truman saw that he got his money's worth. And I've seen an awful lot of city halls and I've seen a lot of courthouses and I don't think I've seen any any better. After watching politics in Oklahoma and Maryland -- see I've been a citizen of Maryland for many a year,

[13]

and my God, between Agnew and Mandell and Anderson, who is asking us in Baltimore County to pay for his legal fees now to defend himself against the same thing that they got Agnew for -- why you realize what a bargain really the people of Kansas City got in Pendergast.

JOHNSON: When was it you entered the Navy; you say in January...

CUNNINGHAM: I entered it right quick, but I stayed in Oklahoma City for about nine months before I got my orders to active duty. In fact, I even wrote a letter to the Navy wanting to get out so I could join the Army. I said, "The Army will take me right away."

JOHNSON: So, I mean the Navy had accepted you, but they had not inducted you?

CUNNINGHAM: I had my commission, but in '42 they were holding off. They didn't have training facilities.

JOHNSON: So you were going to be commissioned as...

[14]

CUNNINGHAM: I was commissioned, but I had not been called up to active duty.

JOHNSON: What was the rank then?

CUNNINGHAM: Lieutenant (j.g.). The Navy did everything by age.

JOHNSON: So you were waiting for this slot or whatever?

CUNNINGHAM: Fort Schuyler could only hold so many people in their ordnance training program. They finally built a bunch of barracks up there, and expanded from 350 or so to around 1,200 a month.

JOHNSON: Now, this is the x-ray expertise that you had gotten with General Electric?

CUNNINGHAM: That's what I was hoping to use, but I never used it.

JOHNSON: Oh, I see. Hadn't the Navy expected to be able to use that expertise?

CUNNINGHAM: They had it on their records and I had

[15]

hopes. You've got a general course up there in Schuyler, and I could handle anything that they had trained me for.

JOHNSON: So when did they finally...

CUNNINGHAM: The day I got out of Schuyler I was assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I think perhaps I may have been assigned there because I told then I'd enjoy being assigned anywhere. It made no difference to me, except in the New York-Long Island area. Well, I didn't know the Navy then like I do now, and as you know of course; that was the handwriting on the wall. I was the third man in the class to be assigned.

JOHNSON: Brooklyn Navy Yard?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the date when that was?

CUNNINGHAM: January of '43; it was cold. January or February, within a month of February, I think.

[16]

JOHNSON: January of '43, you went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As a lieutenant (j.g.), and what was your job there?

CUNNINGHAM: Fire control superintendent.

JOHNSON: Fire control -- for the whole yards?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, no, we had a whole staff there. In other words, each man was assigned ships. Ships came in there for ten-day repair availabilities, and you would have maybe as many as eight or nine ships to keep an eye on. Or if they were a major job, you would have two or three ships.

JOHNSON: I don't recall if Senator Truman or his committee ever visited the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but do you happen to recall whether he did?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't remember ever seeing him. If he was there I didn't see him. No, we had very little to do with those things.

JOHNSON: So you worked then as a fire control superintendent from about January of 1943 until when?

[17]

CUNNINGHAM: Whenever I went out to the Pacific.

JOHNSON: On the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: Okay. Well, you were still working as fire control superintendent in January, a year later when the launching of the Missouri took place.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I was. I had that position until May '45.

JOHNSON: Were you involved in any of the preliminary work on the U.S.S. Missouri, the finishing work on it or the fire control?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, that was what we were doing because when they launch a ship there's not a gun on it, there's no wiring on it, there's nothing in the plotting room. It's a bare shell. The Missouri was the first battleship that ever had its main turret track, the circular track, actually turned while it was on the building ways. Normally, they

[18]

wait until they float them. And that was so with the other three battleships. But to speed it up, they actually did it while it was on the slanting ways. It turned out surer than the other three battleships, which is an interesting feat.

JOHNSON: What did you have to do with the fire control on the Missouri? Did you have anything to do with it before it was launched, before the ship was launched?

CUNNINGHAM: No, it was all in the planning stages. There was no fire control on it.

JOHNSON: But did you do any of the planning, the design work?

CUNNINGHAM: No, I had nothing to do with the design work. You see, that was a class battleship; that was the fourth of the class. The Iowa was the first. They were putting their first guns on the Iowa when I first went into the Navy yard. I worked on it just at the tail end.

[19]

JOHNSON: So, your job was to see...

CUNNINGHAM: But that was no good, because they had their crew on board. The guns are on board, but they had to be tested, and they had to be wired up and it was a mess.

JOHNSON: So, when did you finally get into the Missouri itself?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I chased the thing clear across the Pacific. I picked up the North Carolina at Eniwetok and got on it about -- I would say about July 15. If you've got that book I could probably pick up...

JOHNSON: I've got some dates here that might help us.

CUNNINGHAM: I got in all of the bombardments of Hokkaido and Honshu and the rest of the shore bombardments, which was fine.

JOHNSON: How about the commissioning? The commissioning was on June 11 of 1944, and the main speaker was Senator Bennett "Champ" Clark from Missouri.

[20]

Senator Truman was there also; he made a few comments.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, he was there.

JOHNSON: Were you there at that ceremony

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I was there.

JOHNSON: Before we say anything more about that, we should talk about that launching on January 29, 1944.

CUNNINGHAM: That was when my work started, the week after that.

JOHNSON: But during the ceremony itself you had a...

CUNNINGHAM: I was the Naval Escort for Mayor [Fiorella] LaGuardia and his party (a Fire Department Inspector and his (LaGuardia's) two grandchildren). In other words, there were about 15 of us. A Commander Haley had about 15 of us at the officer's club to escort various high brass down to the building ways and I had to escort Mayor LaGuardia. My wife and family

[21]

were off on pier 3. They had tickets out on the end of the pier somewhere. The Mayor was bound and determined this time he was going right up top.

Well, they had assigned the children real good places to see -- right down at the bottom of the ways. Here's an excellent shot of the place; I can almost see us [referring to photo in book, the Mighty Mo]. But the Mayor wanted to get right up with the brass, and that was all right with me. So I showed him the ladder and he said, "Don't wait for me," and he went on up by himself. This is Mayor LaGuardia [referring to photo].

JOHNSON: Were the Trumans up there by that time or did they come later?

CUNNINGHAM: They were already up there. When LaGuardia says he's going someplace, far be it from me to argue with him. I didn't care that much. So I took the two children and the Fire Inspector, and I told the Fire Inspector it was the best break we ever got because up there where he was he wasn't going

[22]

to see anything except a lot of messy, messy champagne, and the back end of the brass hats. But we went right down on the ways and there you got a tremendous view of that thing going into the water.

JOHNSON: So you had a good view of Margaret Truman smashing the bottle...

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes, you could see her; she was up about six decks you know. That's quite a long distance, and...

JOHNSON: Did you notice the champagne coming back down on them before the ship moved?

CUNNINGHAM: I always anticipate that's going to happen, and I don't look for it. I've never seen a successful launching yet, champagne-wise.

JOHNSON: That was still a successful launching, wouldn't you say?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, a perfect launching. There have been a lot of bad launchings, and this is a very bad

[23]

place to launch a ship because you have to go down into the East River at an angle, and there's a terrific tide here that will take a destroyer right around the circle. But we're right down along in here.

JOHNSON: So you're in this group here?

CUNNINGHAM: Right here on the foreground of this photograph, on the starboard side of the ship. Of course we got a beautiful view. There's a better shot of it; you can just see that bow in the water, in one of these books.

JOHNSON: What's the title of this book again?

CUNNINGHAM: That's the Mighty Mo.

JOHNSON: Yes, Mighty Mo.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I didn't look at this too carefully, but I did notice this one shot there. All these new shots are about the same; they slide down the same way, and sometimes they slide down a little

[24]

better than others. But that was a successful shot. It went off right away. Sometimes they hit it with a bottle, and then these things don't slip, and there's an embarrassing wait and they stand around. As a matter of fact, they put that plaque in the deck of that thing down at Norfolk and I still have a section of the deck at home -- a section of the teak-lined deck. They put a plaque in the deck to mark the surrender ceremony, and they had to lift up part of the deck. They did that in Honolulu.

JOHNSON: You have a piece of that?

CUNNINGHAM: I've got one of the five or six pieces that were lifted up. It's about 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 feet of teak.

JOHNSON: We could be interested sometime in obtaining this.

CUNNINGHAM: Sometime when I get a real good band saw, I'll make picture games out of it probably.

[25]

JOHNSON: Or give it to the Truman Library.

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, I don't think they need it. The plaque is at the Annapolis Academy museum; or it has been. It didn't last long on the ship.

JOHNSON: You saw the Trumans, but you didn't actually get introduced at this time?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, no. There's one whole folder in there (Truman Library Files) of people asking, begging Truman for tickets for this thing. People from Missouri and everywhere. There was one whole folder you showed me, and it included his secretary's tactful refusals.

JOHNSON: I know what you mean.

CUNNINGHAM: I mean, just to get in the yard, not to get up on the platform with them. Now, that was the trouble with LaGuardia. LaGuardia, because of politics, hadn't gotten up on the platform for the Iowa launching, and he'd been mad ever since.

JOHNSON: Do you think this is the first time he had

[26]

actually met Mr. Truman, face-to-face?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, no, surely not. No. He had met him; they were both politicians.

JOHNSON: The next time you saw Mr. Truman was at the commissioning? Were you there on June 11th when the ship was commissioned?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: Secretary Forrestal was there, and Senator Clark.

CUNNINGHAM: That was when the Captain took over command, and this is a formal thing. Forrestal was there.

JOHNSON: You weren't really part of the crew yet at that time?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, no, no, I was just part of the yard. All of the yard officers were allowed to go on board.

JOHNSON: Do you remember Mr. Truman speaking?

[27]

CUNNINGHAM: No, honestly I don’t.

JOHNSON: He apparently just said...

CUNNINGHAM: He said very little.

JOHNSON: Senator Clark was the main speaker.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Champ Clark was a very fine man -- well thought of in Missouri as you know. Just like Jim Reed was; they've got a succession of very fine men from Missouri.

JOHNSON: After that commissioning, it apparently had its first shakedown in Chesapeake Bay...

CUNNINGHAM: No. First of all they had to go out on two days of gunnery trials to proof the guns.

JOHNSON: This was right after the commissioning?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, the first time they went out, and they went out for two days. Of course, the press people, the PR part of the Navy, just invited all kinds of people; that's why it took two days.

[28]

They could have gone out and fired and been back in a half a day. But they had to have everybody out there, and they had so many hundred people that had to get in on the act; half of Congress was there.

JOHNSON: This was gunnery testing?

CUNNINGHAM: Every gun has to be tested. This was a part of my job. They would literally go out off of Long Island and fire every gun and make sure the frame doesn't break; make sure the gun works.

JOHNSON: Pictures were taken of that firing, I suppose?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes.

JOHNSON: But this is not the picture, this one inside of the U.S.S. Missouri book?

CUNNINGHAM: No, this was taken down in the Gulf of Paria, off of Trinidad, on their shakedown. That was a 90-day process down there. That was where they actually went and trained.

[29]

JOHNSON: That's the picture that shows the projectiles, and maybe we will get up to that. You don't recall the Missouri almost grounding in that first trip out of Chesapeake Bay?

CUNNINGHAM: I read about it. That was down on Chesapeake Bay. This was later on when they went down and were checking out their compass. They had to do all that stuff. They went into Chesapeake Bay down by Norfolk. But this is not out of Brooklyn.

JOHNSON: Now apparently on August 1st Senator Truman toured the ship by invitation.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, he came back down.

JOHNSON: Did you happen to be there at the time?

CUNNINGHAM: No, I wasn't there. I didn't go out on the shakedown. I went out on a cruise down to Norfolk after post-shakedown. They came back on shakedown, but we put on the first electronic directors. They used electronic tubes in them

[30]

for directing the secondary battery, The Wisconsin was having them installed and we were. All the wiring diagrams were wrong, and we were having one hell of a time. We got them working. It was the only ship to go through the Canal with them working. They were putting them on the Missouri and the Chicago and the Wisconsin and some other ship.

JOHNSON: You call this an electronic...

CUNNINGHAM: They were electronic. At that time all of the secondary batteries were using (the Sperry gyroscope) local directors -- for the anti-aircraft guns, that is, for the guns of less than five inch. They put these new ones on. They were full of tubes and, frankly, every time they fired off the 16-inch guns, you spent the next day putting in new tubes. Even though you had shock mounts for them, they still couldn't take it.

JOHNSON: Were they supposed to be more accurate than the gyroscope?

[31]

CUNNINGHAM: They were more accurate. I went down when we sailed from New York and fired for two days. Then they started to the Pacific and they put us off. We had one boy that came down with meningitis, one of our director officers, and they had to put him ashore. So they got a destroyer over and we transferred him. They also had Captain Vogelai of Ordnance research, and two or three of his civilian engineers. They had to put them ashore. They were on there for some other purpose.

JOHNSON: You said you weren't there on the shakedown, but you were one of the crew members who did receive a colored print of this picture.

CUNNINGHAM: This was after they came back to New York Navy Day. Eastman Kodak came down to the ship and gave every officer on the ship a large copy of this, in color. This was on Navy Day of 1945.

JOHNSON: You mentioned the Missouri going through the Panama Canal on its way to the Pacific with the only operating electronic control, or aiming

[32]

control, working.

CUNNINGHAM: Mark 57 Directors only. All the rest of the fire control equipment was okay.

JOHNSON: They had only one foot of clearance on each side, I notice, getting through.

CUNNINGHAM: Actually it was a foot and a half, because it was 108.6 inches wide, and it's 110 on the Canal.

JOHNSON: Were there any important differences between the U.S.S. Missouri and the Wisconsin or the Iowa?

CUNNINGHAM: There's only one difference. The Iowa went out with something like 110 20mm guns on it, and by the time that we went through they had learned that they weren't as useful as they thought they were, and we took quite a few off. They are basically, exactly, the same ship.

JOHNSON: Apparently the Missouri got into Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve of 1944, December 24th, and left

[33]

on January 1. On the first day of the new year of '45 it left Pearl Harbor, for action.

CUNNINGHAM: Unfortunately I wasn't there.

JOHNSON: And in this period, now, let's say between commissioning in June and the end of the year, you were still working at the...

CUNNINGHAM: I was still back in the Navy yard. I had the Bennington, the carrier, and the Bonhomme Richard, which was still on the ways. It was another carrier. They are Essex class carriers: Then I had a real hard one, the Brooklyn. It came back for a complete refitting with all new training gear for the main batteries.

JOHNSON: Did you supervise the installation of fire control?

CUNNINGHAM: I had to be sure it was done right. If the Captain wanted to know what was going on, I was the one he asked.

JOHNSON: You kind of supervised and inspected?

[34]

CUNNINGHAM: I had to inspect it for the yard and get it operating. I had to go down to Trinidad with the Brooklyn because it went bad about a week before and we had to truck in from Philadelphia, from Crump Ship Yard, all new training gear for it. It was while I was down there that I got my orders to go out to the Missouri. We had been throwing left-handed requests at the Captain (Navy yard], you know, and he had been turning them down. You know the Navy.

JOHNSON: To get on the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Captain Callaghan and Commander Malone. Commander Malone started out as gunnery officer when he left on shakedown and then was made the exec [Executive Officer] later on. He promised me he would get me on board if I could ever get a request into the Bureau. Captain Callaghan left the ship by the time I .got there. They wrote a second endorsement for my letter. The minute I got a letter out of the desk of the

[35]

local captain, I shot a copy out to them.

JOHNSON: Why did you want to get on the Missouri so badly?

CUNNINGHAM: I wanted to get out of the Navy yards just as much as anything. You work on something for two years, and you would kind of like to see it in action, wouldn't you? It's normal.

JOHNSON: So then you finally got approval to...

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, Captain Callaghan got it for me because he wrote a letter and, you know, by that time his signature meant something.

JOHNSON: What position on the Missouri were you assigned to?

CUNNINGHAM: It would have made me Fire Control Officer at the next overhaul period.

JOHNSON: A fire control officer.

CUNNINGHAM: If they had gone on into Eniwetok. I didn't

[36]

care. It didn't make any difference, just so I got out there. I was listed as F. A. Division Officer.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the day you finally got approval, or the day you finally got out to the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: It was something the order of July 16th or something like that.

JOHNSON: Of 1945.

CUNNINGHAM: I know I crossed the dateline going out there on my birthday, June 28th.

JOHNSON: Okay, you were not aboard when the kamikaze struck?

CUNNINGHAM: No. I was not. No.

JOHNSON: Did you ever hear any stories about it that were not published?

CUNNINGHAM.: No, nobody was excited about it. I saw

[37]

where the deck was burned, this and that and the other. It just burned the deck a little, didn't hurt the thing.

JOHNSON: I think you had mentioned...

CUNNINGHAM: There was a lot of criticism, though, why it got so close. They were all watching a plane hitting the carrier close by at the same time. I think too many officers were watching that.

JOHNSON: You said that during actions like this the chaplain broadcast over the P.A. system what was going on?

CUNNINGHAM: No, not on actions like this. During the surrender ceremony. Get me very clearly there! Oh, my God, no! The phone circuits were busy enough without a chaplain busting in. No, during that surrender ceremony we were talking about this morning, he could talk over the telephone circuits, which had nothing on them. See, you've got about eight or ten telephone circuits and he can plug in any one of them and talk on them. For instance,

[38]

all the men were cut in on 5 GP, they called it, and he just talked all the way through. So you had just about like a baseball announcer’s view of what was going on.

JOHNSON: Where did you get on board the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: Out at sea somewhere, in the Pacific.

JOHNSON: You were transferred from one ship to another?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes, just like you see over here, on a chair -- standard procedure. They were refueling. In other words, they refuel at 14 or 15 knots alongside a tanker.

JOHNSON: Do you remember what ship you were on when you were transferred?

CUNNINGHAM: No. I went up on the North Carolina, but a destroyer came along and took me off it, and it was delivering stuff all around the fleet.

JOHNSON: The North Carolina was coming around to join the...

[39]

CUNNINGHAM: It had been in 90-day overhaul in Pearl Harbor, and they steamed into Eniwetok, fortunately, or I might have been there for another 30 days. In fact, there were two other officers going to the Missouri on the ship, and they never got there until the war was over.

JOHNSON: Then you got on board after the big typhoon. Did you hear about the big typhoon in early June?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Sure heard a lot about it, yes.

JOHNSON: And the Missouri had come through that all right, but...

CUNNINGHAM: You can read The Caine Mutiny and get an action report of that. That’s copied almost verbatim from one of the action reports, I’ve been told.

JOHNSON: According to one of these books, the Missouri started bombarding Japanese soil again on July 15th of 1945.

CUNNINGHAM: That’s right. I missed the first one.

[40]

JOHNSON: The first series which was several months earlier.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Well, they'd been there before. They made one bombardment, and fell back and then they refueled.

JOHNSON: Oh, it was the same series.

CUNNINGHAM: What you do, you go in and fire and then come back out. We did several shore bombardments, and the accuracy was beautiful. We did one at night at a terrific distance and all we had to go on was a lighthouse way down the beach. And yet we fired at the beach and we put our first shot at the beach and you can see the splash of a 16-inch shell in the water, you know. Well, we fired six shells and got four splashes, which meant we hit almost astraddle on that beach, from there we could walk it right straight up where we wanted.

JOHNSON: Did you take over right away as fire control officer?

[41]

CUNNINGHAM: No, I didn't take over because the Fire Control Officer was still on board. He stayed on board. I was just working in the plotting room. I was one of the officers in the plotting room.

JOHNSON: You're plotting targets, right?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, running computer. You've got a secondary plotting room and a main battery plotting roam. The secondary is where all the action is, because they don't use the main battery plotting room but once in a blue moon, you see. In the last two months they only used it, what, five times, five or six times. But the secondary was going all the time.

JOHNSON: What's the difference between the secondary and the main?

CUNNINGHAM: The secondary fires the five-inch and 40mm guns against aircraft mostly.

JOHNSON: I see.

CUNNINGHAM: Or other surface targets.

[42]

JOHNSON: But your bombardment of the shore would have been plotted in the main...

CUNNINGHAM: In the main one. You have a pair of those at each end of the ship. You have a main plotting room and a secondary here, and then at the other end of the ship you've got the same thing duplicated. And in action you alternate them.

JOHNSON: All right, the main plotting room at the fore of the ship controls that...

CUNNINGHAM: Exactly the same. It all controls the same thing.

JOHNSON: So, you were usually in the secondary plotting rooms?

CUNNINGHAM: That's right. That was my battle station.

JOHNSON: And these handled antiaircraft fire to a great extent.

CUNNINGHAM: All antiaircraft fire. Of course, if they'd had a ship to fire at, we would have fired

[43]

the five-inch guns.

JOHNSON: Did you have much anti-aircraft, or much aircraft threat while you were on board?

CUNNINGHAM: We had enough for me. We had to follow a lot of them. You always plot them until they identify themselves.

JOHNSON: But there were no kamikaze attacks on the ship after you got on board?

CUNNINGHAM: None that got inside the screen. By that time they had developed a screen -- every plane that came towards the fleet, coming back to the carrier, had to go up to a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and be identified. And if they didn't they were shot down. The only trouble we were having was that we took on the British fleet for a couple of those shore bombardments, TF-37, I think was the designation. Those British pilots were awfully nice fellows and everything, but they were so curious about seeing so darn many battleships that they just loved to fly around and look down and look

[44]

at the sight, and they drove us crazy. Not only that, they had a plane called a "Sea Fire." Well, the American Navy uses the term "cease fire," and we got ourselves tied into knots right off the bat because they darn well weren't going to change the name of their plane. Well, Halsey had to get rather abrupt with them, and of course, he has the tact of a mule anyway. He told them to keep their planes the hell away from his fleet or they were going to be in an awful lot of trouble. And this is what happened.

JOHNSON: Did you ever fire at friendly planes by mistake?

CUNNINGHAM: I wouldn't know. I never watched the shells going out. We didn't have any complaints.

JOHNSON: You were in the plotting room; what was your position in the plotting room? Were you in charge of that plotting room? Or work with other plotters?

CUNNINGHAM: There are some 20 people in that plotting

[45]

room, and it depends on which watch it was whether I was the man in charge, or whether I was second in charge. I had about four officers all the tine.

JOHNSON: But you were in charge at least some of the time?

CUNNINGHAM: Most of the time.

JOHNSON: And how did you control this fire against enemy planes?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, the assistant gunnery officer is up in the Air Defense-Forward. Each director [4] has a sector to cover, and he has an officer there, and he picks out his targets, or he is told by the gunnery officer which target in his sector to take on. And all we do in the plotting room then is make darn well sure that the guns are aiming at where he's looking. And if he's looking at the thing, we should be hitting it.

JOHNSON: These guns were operated by the crew, or did you have remote control?

[46]

CUNNINGHAM: No, the guns are all electrically operated. The guns are full of crew.

JOHNSON: Now did they do the aiming, or...

CUNNINGHAM: No, they don't do the aiming. They just throw it into automatic and ride along with the signals from the computer. All they do is load shells in as fast as they can.

JOHNSON: You used radar then to give you the data for the computer; data from the radar?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, of course. Yes. Complete radar range. In fact, the first airplane the Missouri ever shot down was shot down at night at a tremendous range. I've forgotten the exact figure, but it was an awful, awful range. And they got it on the first salvo. I don't know. I wasn't aboard it. It was the first one they ever got. They had no IFF, no identification -- it was a snooper. So they just let loose one salvo and it disappeared.

[47]

JOHNSON: The Missouri was the last of those major battleships to be completed wasn't it?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, it was a tie with the Wisconsin. I think it came through the Canal...

JOHNSON: Its radar was no more advanced than that of the other sister battleships?

CUNNINGHAM: No, it was lined up a little bit better, I think. Of course, I'm prejudiced.

JOHNSON: I'm getting the impression now of how that did operate.

CUNNINGHAM: It all depends upon how well it's lined up whether it hits the target or not.

JOHNSON: Rather much of an electronic age even then, as far as battleships were concerned.

CUNNINGHAM: All of the computers were strictly mechanical, but they were marvels up to the speed of 400 knots, and that was fast enough for those planes. It was extremely accurate, arid the guns

[48]

were accurate.

JOHNSON: You say the record of the Missouri was very good as far as...

CUNNINGHAM: It had one of the best records of the fleet, for the time it was there. That's all we could say to the people who were mad because we were selected as the place for the surrender ceremony.

JOHNSON: Yes. You were there for about a month before the war ended, because from mid-July to mid-August there was almost constant action there against the mainland.

CUNNINGHAM: We were 64 days at sea without ever slowing up.

JOHNSON: When did you first hear that the Missouri was going to be the site of the surrender?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, it's hard to separate fact from rumor. You know how scuttlebutt goes around.

[49]

There's an awful lot of scuttlebutt. For instance, there was a beautiful story got started and it sounded very true, and it may have been true. If anybody else told the story I wouldn't deny it. Halsey had decided the Navy officers would appear in dress whites, and of course that would make the Army look like the devil. And this is so typically Halsey that nobody would doubt the story. I don't know whether it was true or not. But I happen to have gone out there with a pair of dress whites wrapping up a couple of articles of contraband I had taken out for a couple of officers. I had won the suit in a crap game. I don't think I had ever worn it but once. You know what dress whites look like. I saw them; all those poor fellows that were on Halsey's staff. They had an awful lot of junior officers that ride these code machines all day long, you know. They were all frantic because not a one of them had ever had a suit of whites. I sold that suit for $80; had it all set up, and then somebody blew the rumor. But there is a lot of stuff like that, so it's hard to say just when

[50]

it was decided.

JOHNSON: Do you remember what the reaction of the crew was to the first atomic bombing of Japan at Hiroshima?

CUNNINGHAM: There was no consternation about it. I think we all figured that would do it. A few of us knew something about it. I had gotten an inkling on it because when I went down on the cruiser Brooklyn they put me in a compartment with a new engineering officer, who had just come out of that big affair down in Tennessee. He had been taken off of that assignment, and they wanted to get him somewhere where he didn't have a chance to see anybody or talk to anybody, so they dumped him on the Brooklyn, which was going to be at sea for some time. They didn't want him to even be with any of the crew, so they dumped him in this one cabin and then I had to go along to fix these guns and they gave me the cabin. They knew I wasn't going to be sleeping very much. And

[51]

looking back, I know that he’d been working on that atomic bomb all this time. He was about as much at home in the engine room of a cruiser as I would have been.

JOHNSON: Didn't it come as a surprise that a weapon of this...

CUNNINGHAM: We knew something was coming, but we didn't know what.

JOHNSON: There had been rumors going around there was a new weapon, super weapon?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, we were listening to all of this stuff from Germany, all of those V-bombs coming over. We knew we must have something like that.

JOHNSON: Well, of course, that was still...

CUNNINGHAM: They were fixing up so many trick things. Did you ever see the floats for the four-engine Liberators, the floats that they made for them to land on the water? Well, out at Tinker Field, the surplus place in Oklahoma City, for years

[52]

afterwards had these floats. They were about 80 or 90 feet long. And I know the two years that I lived out there, we all would get around the country club and talk about buying one of those things and cutting off the top of it and putting in about 25 seats and making a war canoe out of it.

JOHNSON: Yes, I suppose they were experimenting with various things.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, they were going to land them and not worry about the beach -- expendable. All kinds of crazy stuff was all ready to go.

JOHNSON: Were the crew of the Missouri really looking for or expecting that they were going to have to be involved in the invasion?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, sure, we were set up to go into Eniwetok for a 90-day availability for an invasion.

JOHNSON: And then finally when you heard the news...

CUNNINGHAM: I picked it up on the way out on the

[53]

North Carolina, which had been in Pearl Harbor for 90 days, and would no doubt pick up better grade scuttlebutt than the boys out at sea.

JOHNSON: But it wasn't until after the bombing of Nagasaki.

CUNNINGHAM: And also the fleet was warned not to send any of their planes within several hundred miles of that place where they were bombing that day. I mean this is one day when there were no planes over Japan. To me that was quite a give-away, I would think.

JOHNSON: Finally, when you heard the news that Japan had surrendered, you say you recall that event rather clearly? What was it like on the Missouri when the news came across?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, the guys that had been on it the longest were the most excited; that's the whole thing. I judge they weren't nearly as excited as a lot of the people back here. No doubt the

[54]

guys that were on shore were the ones that were the most excited, the Marines. I went out on a transport from San Francisco to Eniwetok on a ship called the Sammy Chase and it had 1400 great big Marines on it, who were going out for about their fourth time. Well, they ended up sitting there waiting, at Eniwetok. They were backed up there. The Marines had been sitting there 90 days and couldn't move. Well, those guys were not very enthusiastic about going out for the fourth time, so no doubt when they got news of that bomb they reacted a lot better, with a lot more...

JOHNSON: What was happening on the Missouri when the news came?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, we were in regular "condition three" watch, cruising around, waiting to go in on another strike the next day. They had a movie on in the evening. They stopped the movie, that's all.

JOHNSON: You remember that movie don't you?

[55]

CUNNINGHAM: "Tarzan and the Amazon Women."

JOHNSON: Did you ever see the end of it?

CUNNINGHAM: It's been on television several times.

JOHNSON: So that meant a lot of whooping and hollering when it was announced Japan had surrendered?

CUNNINGHAM: There wasn't any gun firing or any of that stuff on the ship, and they didn't break lights or anything like that.

JOHNSON: What was the condition; what's the name of that?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, condition three watch, which means that half of the secondary battery was manned against any kind of an anti-aircraft attack. They alternate guns and that means that all guns are exercised every other watch, and half of the guns are ready to fire instantly. That would give the rest of the crew a couple of minutes to come up and man the rest of the guns.

[56]

JOHNSON: Before we talk about the Missouri in Tokyo harbor, do you remember any very notable events on the Missouri during the first month then, up until say August 14, anything that really stands out in your mind?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't think so, except when we did sail into Sagami Won, which is that lovely harbor just outside of Tokyo Bay and with Fujiyama in the distance. We came in at sundown and had all the darkness and all the rest of this stuff, and lights were out. And everybody was wondering when some kamikaze that hadn't gotten the word was going to come up over this mountain, because we couldn't train a gun on them quick enough.

JOHNSON: This was late August then; this was on your way to mooring in Tokyo harbor?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. We were going to go into Tokyo Bay the next day or so. And I'll be darned; here comes a hospital ship over the horizon with every light on. You know, you could have spotted

[57]

it just like a search light. Like that television tower by Mercy Hospital that I saw last night suddenly out of the dark. And so Halsey said, "Oh, to hell with it," and ordered us to have movies out on the fantail. The screen went up on the number three turret and it was the first time they had had outside movies since...

JOHNSON: And you’re in Japanese waters.

CUNNINGHAM: Right in Sagami Won.

JOHNSON: How far from shore were you?

CUNNINGHAM: Not over a half mile. I mean just sitting off the beach. It was a lovely little harbor there.

JOHNSON: Had you heard any rumors that a kamikaze was...

CUNNINGHAM: No, nothing at all. We were going in the next day. Rumors about the kamikazes began floating around while we're sitting around in the harbor for the surrender ceremony.

[58]

JOHNSON: The day you went into Tokyo Bay?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: And while you were there...

CUNNINGHAM: Well, we kept condition three watch all the way through, all the time we were there, until after we sailed. Now, we may have had a gun-shy gunnery officer, I don't know. I don't know who gives the orders, or the Captain may have been gun-shy just because he had an Admiral on his hands. You know how that is.

JOHNSON: Right. But you were still down in the plotting room. When you came into Tokyo Bay, you were still working in the plotting room?

CUNNINGHAM: No. I wasn't; I was up on the deck, because I didn't have the watch that time.

JOHNSON: I see. In case there had been some kind of attempt to bomb the Missouri while it was in Tokyo Bay...

[59]

CUNNINGHAM: They would have rung general quarters, and I would have run for the plotting room.

JOHNSON: So, you remember when they anchored there in Tokyo Bay, to get ready for the ceremonies?

CUNNINGHAM: They anchored there.

JOHNSON: When General [Douglas] MacArthur came on board.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, he didn't come on board our ship until just a few minutes before the ceremony. And he didn't stay too long. I mean he was on an official visit.

JOHNSON: Was Nimitz on board before MacArthur was?

CUNNINGHAM: Only 45 minutes before. Nimitz at 0800, MacArthur about an hour later. Our biggest trouble was with the press ships that came alongside.

JOHNSON: It was actually September 1st there in Tokyo Bay and it was September 2nd here, and that's why we celebrate September 2nd as V-J Day. So during

[60]

the ceremony were you below or up on deck?

CUNNINGHAM: I was there in the plotting room (condition three), listening to the Chaplain. I had the watch. But I got off before everybody left the ship. I went to the wardroom, and everybody was horsing around and hadn't left yet when we changed watch.

JOHNSON: Did you see any of the Japanese officers before they left?

CUNNINGHAM: I saw them.

JOHNSON: So, you got a running account, those of you who couldn't be up on the deck?

CUNNINGHAM: I heard more of what was going on.

JOHNSON: From the Chaplain?

CUNNINGHAM: That's right, because three-fourths of the guys couldn't see a thing, or hear.

JOHNSON: Okay, how long was the Missouri in Tokyo Bay?

[61]

CUNNINGHAM: About another week after that. Then we were Nimitz's flagship, and we hightailed it to Guam. We were there for three or four days.

JOHNSON: So after about a week in Tokyo Bay you went to Guam?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, we picked up an awful lot of stuff and then we went on to Pearl Harbor and we were there some week or ten days. Nimitz entertained a lot of friends there.

JOHNSON: There wasn't too much for the plotting officer to do, or gunnery superintendent to do then.

CUNNINGHAM: No, a little vacation. It was all right, and no one else had too much to do either. Then they had all the Marines; they picked up all these Marines to give them a little ride home, and, boy, they were overjoyed. They slept on a wooden deck instead of the jungle, and anytime we had to move goods or anything, the four main divisions that

[62]

ordinarily had to do most of that stuff, they didn't have to. They got these Marines to do it. They were tickled to death.

JOHNSON: Where did you pick up the Marines?

CUNNINGHAM: Guam.

JOHNSON: And you took them back to Pearl Harbor?

CUNNINGHAM: Went as far as Peal Harbor. Picked up some more and brought them through to New York. In other words they transshipped a lot of them. I brought four or five friends of mine that worked for ordnance companies -- representatives there in Pearl Harbor. I brought them along. I told the gunnery officer that my computers would get a good check-out from an instrument company, for instance, Arma, General Electric, Ford Instrument.

JOHNSON: Were you laid over in Pearl Harbor for a few days?

CUNNINGHAM: About ten days. I had a wonderful time.

[63]

I stayed at the Royal Hawaiian, for combat fatigue. Nimitz was going to turn it back to the hotel people. It had been there for submarine people all during the war.

JOHNSON: After about ten days in Pearl Harbor, the ship comes back...

CUNNINGHAM: Through the Canal, to New York.

JOHNSON: But you never hit the West Coast?

CUNNINGHAM: No, never touched it. They hit it on the way out. You see, they went through the Canal and up to San Francisco, and then went out.

JOHNSON: So you then came back through the Canal and up to Norfolk?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: Then what happened at Norfolk? Do you know what...

CUNNINGHAM: Not a thing; they put the plaque on board.

[64]

JOHNSON: That's where they put the plaque on board.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, installed the plaque. They had it molded by that time.

JOHNSON: That's where you got this piece of wood?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes.

JOHNSON: How did you manage to do that?

CUNNINGHAM: I had lots of ways. When you're ship superintendent you learn a lot from your chiefs. So you learn an awful lot of cumshaw ways to operate.

JOHNSON: What's your rank at this time then?

CUNNINGHAM: I made lieutenant commander just before I got out.

JOHNSON: So at Norfolk the plaque was put on; and how long was the ship there?

CUNNINGHAM: We loaned an engineering watch to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was just there,

[65]

and brand new, and didn't have a watch that was competent enough to run it to New York. It was a big carrier.

JOHNSON: So, how long were you in Norfolk?

CUNNINGHAM: A week or ten days.

JOHNSON: And then from Norfolk then...

CUNNINGHAM: Up to New York for Navy Day.

JOHNSON: Which would be in October of 1945, and that's when they had this tremendous fleet in...

CUNNINGHAM: The Hudson River.

JOHNSON: And that's when President Truman came to...

CUNNINGHAM: That's where all those pictures are, yes. They had the fleet stretched clear up to the other end of the Zeider Zee, or whatever you call it, up above the George Washington Bridge.

JOHNSON: This was the third time then that you saw Mr. Truman, but of course, now he was President.

[66]

You had seen him at the launching and at the commissioning and now at Navy Day in the Hudson.

CUNNINGHAM: I shook hands with him that time.

JOHNSON: He did shake hands with you?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, he came on board. In the course of his running around the ship, he came and shook hands with everybody from Missouri in one group.

JOHNSON: And you still counted yourself from Missouri, I suppose?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. For that I would, yes. If he had been from Oklahoma I would probably have told him I was from Oklahoma.

JOHNSON: Did he know your father at all?

CUNNINGHAM: He knew half the people in Jackson County.

JOHNSON: So, you did get to just say hello to him at that time?

[67]

CUNNINGHAM: He was having a great time, very happy.

JOHNSON: I'll bet he was. He toured the ship while it was there

CUNNINGHAM: Yes, you've got a lot of pictures in there.

JOHNSON: And then from the Hudson River, where did you go from there?

CUNNINGHAM: The ship went into Brooklyn Navy Yard.

JOHNSON: For outfitting or...

CUNNINGHAM: Repair, and 90-day availability. I got off. I was ready; I had enough points.

JOHNSON: You got off the Missouri. Was that the end of your career on the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: My company was screaming. I also had a tooth pulled. We went down the bay and took off 16-inch ammunition. All the ammunition was unloaded, and that was quite a job. I had an impacted wisdom tooth I had nursed all the way. So I didn't

[68]

have anything to do with the 16-inch ammunition, and I was confined to quarters, with a bad tooth, but...

JOHNSON: When did you leave the Missouri? Do you remember the date?

CUNNINGHAM: Just before Thanksgiving. In other words, you had thirty days or something or other to make up, and accrued leave and all that, so I don't know what the effective dates on it are.

JOHNSON: That ended your service on the Missouri and you were discharged.

CUNNINGHAM: I went out to Chicago with my company the day after Christmas.

JOHNSON: You were discharged that quickly?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I was on 90-day leave. I went on out and went to work,

JOHNSON: That ended your military career then?

CUNNINGHAM: I had to get going; I had a family. I

[69]

was bankrupt. I lost everything I had in the course of the war, practically. I had a home in Oklahoma City before the war.

JOHNSON: Where did your family stay when you were on board the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I had an apartment in New York. I had an apartment in Kew Gardens all the time we lived there.

JOHNSON: Your wife and kids.

CUNNINGHAM: One child. But we had sold our home in Oklahoma City, because she didn't want to live out there. It was too far away to rent it.

JOHNSON: So you weren't on board the Missouri when it went to Turkey and Rio de Janeiro, got stuck in the...

CUNNINGHAM: No, you can't pin that on me -- stuck in the mud.

JOHNSON: Didn't go to England to...

[70]

CUNNINGHAM: No.

JOHNSON: But you did kind of follow its history after that?

CUNNINGHAM: Probably not as much as I should have. In fact, they’ve been having these reunions of...

JOHNSON: I’ve got a clipping here of one of those reunions; did you ever get...

CUNNINGHAM: Well, there’s another one. I got a clipping the other day about one coming up down in Florida not too long from now.

JOHNSON: Now, this reunion apparently in 1978 was here in Kansas City.

CUNNINGHAM: Could well have been.

JOHNSON: But you say you haven’t gone...

CUNNINGHAM: This fellow Finn, I keep getting letters from him every other year. I don’t go in

[71]

much for that stuff. It's like my University of Kansas career. I've never been back. This will be the first time, tomorrow.

JOHNSON: Well, better late than never, they say.

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. I'm going to have to get out of here.

JOHNSON: Right, I guess there isn't too much more to say unless you've got an opinion about...

CUNNINGHAM: I haven't contributed anything.

JOHNSON: ...life on board the Missouri, the U.S.S. Missouri, is worth talking about. We really haven't recorded anybody that did serve on the Missouri, I guess, before.

CUNNINGHAM: There's a fellow named Bishop that lives here in town.

JOHNSON: Bishop? Do you know what his first name is?

CUNNINGHAM: John Bishop, I guess.

[72]

JOHNSON: He's a Kansas Citian. Do you know what his position was on the Missouri?

CUNNINGHAM: I'll look it up on the roster and send it to you.

JOHNSON: Well, we want to thank you for your sitting down and talking to us.

CUNNINGHAM: I'll get his name and then we can look him up in the telephone book. He might be dead for all I know.

JOHNSON: Okay.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


List of Subjects Discussed

    Agnew, Spiro, 13
    Ajax, H.M.S., 3
    Atomic bomb, Manhattan Project, 50-51

    Bennington, U.S.S., 33
    Bishop, John, 71-72
    Board of Trade, Kansas City, Missouri, 7
    Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, New York, 2, 15, 16, 33, 67
    Brooklyn, U.S.S., 33, 34, 50
    Brush Creek, Kansas City, Missouri, 12

    Chesapeake Bay, 27, 29
    Clark, Bennett C., 19, 27
    Combat Air Patrol, U.S. Pacific fleet, 43
    Crump Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 34
    Cunningham, Allan, 6-7, 10-11
    Cunningham, William H., background, 1-6

    Eniwetok Atoll, 19, 39, 52, 54

    Forrestal, James V., 26
    Fort Schuyler, New York, 2, 14, 15
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S.S., 64-65

    General Electric Corporation, 1-2, 4-5, 14
    Guam, 61, 62
    Gulf of Paria, Trinidad, 28

    Halsey, William F., 44, 49, 57

    Iowa, U.S.S., 18, 25, 32

    Japan:

      atomic bombing of, 50, 53
      naval bombardment of, World War II, 19, 39-40
      surrender of, World War II, 53-60

    LaGuardia, Fiorello H., 20-21, 25
    Liberator bombers, water floats for, World War II, 51-52

    MacArthur, Douglas, 59
    Missouri, U.S.S.:

    Muehlebach Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri, 6

    Navy Day celebration, New York, New York, 1945, 65-67
    Nimitz, Chester W., 59, 61, 63
    Norfolk (Va.) Navy Yard, 63-65
    North Carolina, U.S.S., 19, 38-39, 53

    Oklahoma, 4, 5, 10

    Panama Canal, 31-32, 63
    Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 32-33, 53, 61, 62-63
    Pendergast, Tom, 8-9, 12
    Phoebe, H.M S., 3

    Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 63

    Sagami Won Harbor, Japan, 56, 57
    Sammy Chase, U.S.S., 54

    Tinker Field, Oklahoma, 51-52
    Tokyo Bay, Japan, 56, 58, 59
    Truman, Harry S.:

      bipartisan support for, 11
      Cunningham, W.H., first acquaintance with, 6, 8
      Cunningham, W.H., meeting with on board U.S.S. Missouri, 65-67
      early political career, 9, 12
    Truman, Margaret, 22
    Tuscaloosa, U.S.S., 1

    University of Kansas, 1, 3, 8, 19

    Wisconsin, U.S.S., 30

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