Last Known Activity
William J. Cunningham, Jr was born in New York in 1919, according to his military enlistment papers. His parents were William J., Sr. and Marguerite Cunningham. The US Censuses 1920 and 1930 show the family in the Bronx, while the US Census 1940 shows them in Buffalo.
Cunningham enlisted as an aviation cadet in New York on January 16, 1942 in Buffalo, New York. His enlistment file shows he had completed 4 years of high school, and was a machinist.
He received training as a pilot. When this course of instruction was completed, he was awarded wings, commissioned, and transitioned into multi-engined aircraft. He was sent to North Africa in 1943, and flew missions in North Africa, France, and Italy.
On August 17, 1943, in support of the 8th Air Forces' "deep-penetration raids" on Regensburg and Schweinfurt, Cunningham's unit sent 40 bombers to attack German airfields in southern France, outside Marseilles.
The air bases were bombed successfully, and no enemy fighters were observed. The flak, however, was intense and accurate, One shell hit the nose of Cunningham's B-17, severely damaging the plane, and killing part of the crew. The aircraft then exploded. Observers stated several parachutes were observed.
Six bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the fallen aircraft. Evidently, these dead were buried in local cemeteries and retrieved after the war. In 1953, the remains of Lt. Cunningham were sent to the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguiguan, France and buried in Plot D, Row 8, Grave 4.
US Census 1920
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
Lt William J. Cunningham, Jr. was the assigned pilot on B-17F # 42-30314, named "Beautiful Baby," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 407 was issued for this loss. Mission loading lists agree with the crew listing as shown in the MACR. The crew consisted of:
1 Lt William J. Cunningham p
2 Lt Lewis E. Howard c-p
2 Lt Robert L. Michael nav
2 Lt Milton W. Miller bomb
TSgt Samuel Barnett eng/tt gun
Sgt Harold J. Jacobson r/o
SSgt Sebastian C. Smith btg
SSgt Alvin W. Roberts wg
TSgt Charles E, Van Buren tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Jacobson, Roberts, and Van Buren survived, but were taken POW.