Last Known Activity|
SN William Henry Cunningham, Jr.
USNR KIA WWII
Bill was born in 1915 to William H. and Caroline Cunningham who lived in Tredyffrin Township. His father was a framer for a contractor. William was the youngest of three children: Mary W., Horace F., and William.
William, whose nickname was "Fox" attended Tredyffrin High School, and Tredyffrin-Easttown Middle school on Conestoga Rd. in Berwyn. The school yearbook, the "Garnet and Gray" describes him thus:
When Fox sits in class, he seems to be constantly amused. Indeed, after the twinkle in his eye becomes pronounced, we are sure of soon hearing some humorous remark which will be followed by his own hearty laugh. But Bill has other characteristics beside humor; one of these is interest in his studies which evinces itself in that concentrated frown which he is sometimes seen wearing.
Bill participated in Field Day his first years, football 1st, chorus 3rd, and was a stagehand all 4 years of high school. He graduated with the class of 1932.
William enlisted in the Navy in September 1943. After basic training, he was assigned to the new destroyer USS Nelson DD-623. The Nelson was commissioned in November1942.
Bill's ship served escorting crucial convoys in the North Atlantic protecting them against the dreaded German U-boats during the winter of 1943 and early 1944.
In May 1944, the Nelson sailed to England for the coming Normandy invasion.
On May 24th, while William's ship was moored next to a tanker at Plymouth harbor the port (left) propeller and shaft became fouled with a mooring buoy, causing extensive damage. When she was dry docked for repairs, damage was found to be beyond repair, and her one propeller was removed. But the need for ships for the Normandy landings was so great, the Nelson was sent to Normandy with only one propeller.
The Nelson arrived at Omaha Beach Normandy on June 8th, serving on the "Dixie Line" guarding against enemy submarines and E-boats (German PT style fast boats). That night she was attacked by an enemy Glide Bomb, which missed and exploded off her starboard quarter.
On the night of June 8th and 9th, the Nelson with other destroyers defeated and attacked 3 German E-boats, two of which were sunk.
On the evening of June 12th the Nelson radar detected a contact approaching. Challenging the contact by radio and signal light (friend or foe) they received no response and opened fire. The single contact grew to three contacts. The Nelson was hit by an enemy torpedo which blew off the stern of the ship. Twenty-four of her crew died or went missing. The ship survived, but William did not.
Seaman 1st Class William Henry Cunningham II was Killed In Action on June 12, 1944.
He was buried in a local military cemetery. In 1948, his body was returned home for reburial in his home country. Services were held at the Mauger funeral home in Malvern on Saturday July 24th. He was buried with military honors at Grove Methodist Cemetery on Boot Road.
William was survived by his wife Veronica, and by his 5 year old son, William H. the 3rd.