Pvt. John O. Cunningham

    Pvt. John O. Cunningham was born on November 12, 1912, in Kentucky to Charles Cunningham and Anna Cunningham.  His father married Anna Ruth Stewart on August 5, 1922.  He was the brother of three sisters, four brothers, and two half-brothers.  The family resided in Henry County, Kentucky, and later lived at 313 Pocahontas Street, Louisville, Kentucky.
    On January 21, 1941, John was inducted into the U.S. Army in Louisville, Kentucky.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  It is not known what training he received during basic, but it is known that he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion while in basic training.  The reason this was done was that the tank company had been a Kentucky National Guard Tank Company from Harrodsburg, and the Army wanted to fill its vacancies with men from Kentucky.
  The unit trained at the base for nearly a year before being sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason.  They had expected to return to Ft. Knox.
    On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    It was at this time, men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers.  The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam. 
    When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila, while the maintenance section remained behind to unload the battalion's tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    After arriving in the Philippines the paperwork began to be processed to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion.  Doing this meant that both battalions would have three letter companies.  With the start of the war, the transfer never was completed. 
    The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The tank companies were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against paratroopers.
    All morning long, American planes filled the sky.  At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch.   The three tank crew members were sent to the food trucks to get their lunches while one man remained with the tank.  At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes.  When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. 

    On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.  They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company with C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts which reflected the moon light.  The tankers were able to stop the Japanese and caused them to drop back to regroup.       

    The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields.  They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers.  They would continue this duty until April 7th.  On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat.  The lines had broken and there was general chaos D Company with A Company, 194th held their position.  An attempt was made to send a company of the 192nd to reinforce them, but the fuel dump containing the fuel had been abandoned and by the time the tanks reached it, the gas had been used by Self-Propelled Mounts vehicles or SPMs.  D Company fought at Cabcaban until receiving the news of the surrender. 
    After destroying their tanks the tankers could wait in their bivouac until the Japanese made contact with them or attempt to reach the Island of Corregidor which had not surrendered.  It is know known what John did.
    The next report on John was at Cabanatuan POW Camp.  It was reported by the camp's medical staff that he was hospitalized on July 5, 1942, suffering from dysentery and malnutrition.  It was not recorded if he was discharged from the hospital or if he remained in the hospital the entire time.
    According to records kept at the camp, Pvt. John O. Cunningham died in the camp hospital on October 23, 1942, from malaria. malnutrition, and beriberi.  The approximate time of his death was given at 8:00 A.M.  He was buried in the camp cemetery.
After the war, the U.S. Remains Recovery Team positively identified the remains of Pvt. John O. Cunningham.  He was posthumously promoted to Private First Class.  At the request of his family, his remains were returned to United States and buried, on October 28, 1949, at Resthaven Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.


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