Woodbury County

Charles "Frank" Cunningham

His Discharge Paper

Obituary Link


Charles ‘Frank’ Francis Cunningham was born 23 August 1924, in Anthon, to James and Mary Cunningham. Siblings are Tom, Marcella, Gilda, Ann, Joe, Catherine, and Maurice.

Frank graduated from Anthon in 1943. Eventually, three brothers and a sister were in the service. Brothers, Tom and Joe were in the Army; Maurice in the Army Air Corp, and a sister, Catherine, was in the Navy. Catherine was in the Post Office at San Diego.

“I enlisted about 18 October 1943. I trained at Camp Adair, Oregon. When I enlisted, I was not given a choice to the branch I wanted. It was chosen for me. I had recently had surgery on my knee and the doctor advised me that maybe I should wait. I said, “I either go now or later, so it may as well be now.” Being just out of high school where I had been active in baseball, basketball and football, as well as an avid hunter and fisherman, I believe that made my basic training experience easier than most...I still remember the 20 mile hikes though.

I was sent overseas, 11 May 1944, to New Caladonia and then was sent to the Palau and Pelalu Islands. I remember arriving and it being very warm. New Caladonia is located approximately 200 miles off the coast of Australia. My job assignment was literally to kill as many Japanese as possible. Our group alone lost between 200-250 men between wounded and approximately 8,000 men in one week alone on the same islands. I remember the gun fire the most... and at night we were so close to the Japanese that our men would yell at them and they would answer back... a little too close. It was a very stressful time between the two islands since you were never really sure how many Japanese were already on the islands.

A funny thing happened when we were trying to get a Japanese stove to work so we could make coffee; just when we got it to work, a single engine airplane went over. Dropped a bomb which unfortunately landed on our stove like it was marked with a bullseye. Needless to say that was not in the sky for long once the American plane got off the ground.

I saw Ralph Danderand in the K. Angel Islands. We were loading on the President Johnson to go to Guadalcanal and to my surprise, Marvin Hanson and Howard Downing were sailors on that boat. Due to engine problems, we were loaded onto another ship and they had to take a load of nurses back to Hawaii. It was still nice to see people from home. I remember that Roy Burow and I graduated from high school together and joined the military together. You make some very good friends in the military, but it was hard to stay in touch when we were moved around so much.
I was in the Philippines, Japan – mainly Amore’ Japan.

Finally back to San Francisco where I went by train to Leavenworth, Kansas for discharge. I caught a ride back to Anthon with Pete Hanson.

There were entertainers such as Red Skelton and other female entertainers at New Caladonia. During leave you could go to town to see the sights and if you had money you could actually buy a meal or drink some beer.

We lived mainly off one meal a day which could consist of can goods and can meats, ‘Spam’. Of course most of us would try and get food from the stockpile whenever possible since the military felt one meal was enough, but our stomachs disagreed from time to time.

After the war, I went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission in Anawetok in the South Pacific. We were in charge of the testing of Hydrogen and Atomic Bombs for five years.

I received the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with star and the Good Conduct Medal. I was Platoon Sgt. 745 – Techincal Sgt., in the 81st Infantry Division. Battles as I was in – GO 33 WD 45, Southern Philippines, Luzon, Pelalu and Palau Islands, and Amore Japan.

I married Edna Lee Petersen, 2 December 1958, in Moville. We have six children, Ruth, Kathy, Shon, Loann, Beth, and Lorna.

I worked two years on the Theobald Watershed project. From there I went on to own and operate the Miracle Mile Inn in Moville for 30 years and have now retired and remained living in Anthon my entire life. War makes you wonder what it is all about since it really does no one any good and a lot of good men were lost. I truly feel that President Truman really did save a lot of the military personnel by dropping the bomb.

I am a member of the American Legion Post in Anthon, and the VFW Post in Correctionville.

The Cunningham Brothers, Joe, Frank, Maurice and Tom.

Submitted by Frank Cunningham