Cunningham, Joseph R., 1st Lt

 Service Photo   Service Details
8 kb
View Time Line
Last Rank
First Lieutenant
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
AAF MOS 1035-Bombardier
Last AFSC Group
Air Crew (Officer)
Primary Unit
1942-1942, AAF MOS 1035, 435th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
Service Years
1941 - 1942
First Lieutenant

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
South Carolina
South Carolina
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CMSgt Don Skinner-Deceased to remember Cunningham, Joseph R., 1st Lt.

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Travelers Rest, SC
Last Address
Townsville, Australia

Casualty Date
Aug 14, 1942
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Southern Ocean
World War II
Location of Interment
Manila American Cemetery - Taguig City, Philippines
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Walls of the Missing

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

Pearl Harbor Memorial Medallion

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Bombardier Badge

 Unit Assignments
US Air Force14th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy40th Reconnaissance Squadron19th Bombardment Group, Heavy
435th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
  1941-1941, Aviation Cadet Training Course
  1941-1941, AAF MOS 1035, 14th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
  1941-1942, AAF MOS 1035, 40th Reconnaissance Squadron
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 1035, 19th Bombardment Group, Heavy
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 1035, 435th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Attack on Pearl Harbor
  1941-1942 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Philippine Islands Campaign (1941-42)
  1942-1942 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater
 Colleges Attended 
Clemson University
  1935-1937, Clemson University
 My Aircraft/Missiles
B-17 Flying Fortress  
  1941-1942, B-17 Flying Fortress
 Additional Information

Last Known Activity
Joseph Ralph Cunningham was born in Travelers Rest, South Carolina in November 1916, the son of Sloan B. and Mable B. Cunningham. He was educated in the Travelers Rest school system, graduating from high school in 1935.

According to the NARA enlistment record, he enlisted in Greenville, South Carolina on July 21, 1941 for the aviation cadet program. The record also states he was single, had completed 2 years of college, and had been employed in the textile manufacturing trade. It also stated he enlisted from the Regular Reserves, although no time elements are given.

He was trained as a bombardier,and assigned to the 14th Bomb Squadron in California. The unit left there on December 6, 1941 for Hawaii, arriving just as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The unit was moved to a temporary field and later participated in General MacArthur's departure from the Philippines.

The unit arrived in Australia and underwent a number of reorganizations. It essentially became a reconnaissance unit, but carried the 435th Bomb Squadron designation. On August 14, 1942, the aircraft Lt Cunningham was assigned to left Townsville, Australia on a recon run to Gasmata and Rabaul on New Guinea. The aircraft never reported in nor was it ever seen again. Speculation is that it was intercepted by Japanese fighters and shot down.

None of the crew were ever recovered, and all were declared dead on December 5, 1945. All are remembered on the Walls of the Missing in Manila American Cemetery and Memorial at Fort Bonafacio, the Philippines.


Lt Joseph Cunningham was acting as bombardier on B-17E # 41-2656, nicknamed "Chief Seattle," assigned to the 435th Bomb Squadron. This aircraft was one of many that had been paid for by citizens in a patriotic gesture. A bond drive in Seattle raised $280,535 to pay for it. It was presented to the Army Air Corps. It flew 1 mission from Townsville, and on the 2nd mission, it was lost.

Missing Air Crew Report 16345 was issued, and identifies the crew as:

1 Lt Wilson L. Clark    p
F/Sgt George S. Andrews    c-p
2 Lt Hubert S. Mobley    nav
1 Lt Joseph R. Cunningham   bomb
SSgt Elwyn O. Rahier    eng/tt gun
SSgt John J. Dunbar    asst eng
TSgt Irving W. McMichael    r/o
Cpl Charles H. Hartman   asst r/o
Pvt David B. Beattie    AVS
Cpl Richard K. Pastor   gunner

F/Sgt Andrews was one of 6 members of the RAAF chosen to train into the B-17.
Pvt Beattie manned the Air Vessel Search, a rudimentary type of early radar, to locate enemy vessels.

In the crew photo, Cunningham is in the back row, third fron left.

Service photo source:

Copyright Inc 2003-2011