Category Archives: Letters

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 2

In May of 1943 I went to the Navy recruiting station at Lubbock [TX.] and Amarillo. I couldn’t pass the physicals because of my eyesight. You had to have 20/30 or better to pass. Then, in June of ’43 I was drafted. About 17 of us were sent to Lubbock to the “reception” center. As usual, they had everyone placed in alphabetical order for the ordeal. They had “stations” that tested us. I was among the first to finish. I was surprised when they asked me if I had a preference to the service that I would serve. Naturally I said the Navy. They had this long table where an officer from the Army, Marines, Navy, & Coast Guard were seated. They gave my folder to the Navy. Well, he finally said that they would accept me into “Limited Duty.” He said that this would place me on a capital ship (Battleship, Carrier or large Cruiser) or in the Seabees. I asked him “What is a Seabee?” He replied that they were similar to the Army Corp of Engineers. Then he said that “You could always transfer if you wanted to.” Do you know that the word transfer does not exist in the Navy dictionary? From the reception center I was sent to the Navy recruiting station where I was “processed.” At the end of the day the officer in charge lined all of us up to be sworn in. Well, he told me to step aside as they had a special oath for “inductees.” I waited a while and then was handed some tickets home. You know, I was never sworn into the Navy. Does that mean I was never in the Navy?

Of the 17 men from Floyd County [Texas] inducted in June ’43 I was the only one going to the Navy. All the others went to the Army. About half ended up on Omaha Beach on D-Day and the other half in Patton’s Tank Corp. There were many casualties among them. I was indeed lucky.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 1

I received a letter from my grandfather in the mail today. It’s very long, filling nearly two 50-page notepads. I asked him to write down his memories and stories for me. Some of his letter I will share here. The remainder of this entry is his writing.

So you want me to write about things that I have done, seen or heard in my many years of experiences. I hope you know that historians claim that people as old as I usually forget things, embellish the things that they remember. I also will tell some things that happened during my lifetime. Please, please put the red correction pencil away [why must my family perpetually accuse me of grading their correspondence???]. I know that I break every grammatical rule ever made. I plan to relate tales, stories, or whatever that I know happened, but historians tell about the events in a vastly different manner… So if you’re ready, here goes the B.S….

I have personally met two famous generals. When on Attu our work crew decided to play hookey and drive over to the Army P.X. [Papa was in the Seabees in WWII]. We had a truck assigned to our crew to haul plumbing supplies and pipe. Anyway on the way to the P.X. we stopped beside the road and were lounging in the lush grass looking back along the Aleutian Island chain. This was an amazing sight as it was extremely clear. You could see back to the mainland. Anyway, this jeep stopped and a large soldier approached us. He asked who we were. We told him — Seabees. Anyway we told him the work we did. Then asked him what he did. He replied that he was the boss of the soldiers. He was Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner. General Buckner was the commander of the Army 7th Division. General Buckner was later “involved” with the invasion of Okinawa. He was killed by a sniper on Ie-Shima — the same small island where Ernie Pyle was killed. Ernie Pyle was a very famous writer that covered the war from the “grunt” level. The other general I met was Lt. General (3 star) Leon Johnson. I met him at Hensley Field, Texas in 1964. Gen. Johnson was the Colonel that led the planes on the infamous ill-fated raid on Ploesti, Romania. This was a raid designed to destroy Hitler’s oil supply. The planes got lost on the long run from bases in North Africa — broke radio silence and were met by [a] large group of the Luftwaffe. Most of the hundreds of planes were lost. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this run.

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