Oral History Interview with
Lorain H. Cunningham
Member of the 129th Field Artillery regiment, 35th Division, in World War I, acquaintance of Harry S. Truman, and mining engineer.
Baxter Springs, Kansas
September 8, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened October, 1990
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript |List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Baxter Springs, Kansas
Lorain H. Cunningham
September 8, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson
Subjects discussed include coal mining in Kansas; Camp Cody, New Mexico;
Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma; 129th Field Artillery's trip to France; Cunningham's
experiences as an artilleryman in France, 1918; photographs taken by Cunningham
of 129th Field Artillery personnel, including Captain Harry S. Truman;
Verdun battlefield; disposal of surplus military equipment; Missouri School
of Mines at Rolla; Peabody Coal Company; and Battery D reunions at the
Inaugural in 1949 and in Kansas City on November 3, 1952.
Names mentioned include Harry S. Truman, Eugene Donnelly, Ted Marks,
Lynn Cunningham, Gordon Cunningham, Olive Cunningham, and Glenna Cunningham.
JOHNSON: Mr. Cunningham, will you tell us when and where you were born
and what your parents' names were?
CUNNINGHAM: I was born in Pleasanton, Kansas, in Lynn County.
JOHNSON: What was your birthdate?
CUNNINGHAM: March 10, 1895.
JOHNSON: All right, and your parents' names?
CUNNINGHAM: My father was a Scotchman, Duncan Cunningham. He didn't come
until he was 19 years old from Scotland.
JOHNSON: What was your mother's name?
CUNNINGHAM: Helen. She was a foreigner. She was a musician. Oh, she was
a beautiful woman.
JOHNSON: What was her maiden name?
CUNNINGHAM: Porter. Most of her life was spent up at Pleasanton, Kansas.
JOHNSON: What did your mother do? Was she a housewife, was she a teacher,
or what did she do?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, she was mostly a housewife.
JOHNSON: What was your father's occupation?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, he was a miner, mostly. He was president of the local
union here for twenty-some years. See, around this place, from Northrop
and Scammon on up, at one time there was about 45 mines working you know.
JOHNSON: What kind of minerals was it?
JOHNSON: How about zinc mining; was there zinc mining here?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, but that was way down here.
JOHNSON: More south.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, that was across into Oklahoma.
JOHNSON: Harry Truman did some zinc mining back about 1913-14. Did you
know that, that Harry Truman did some zinc mining?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't remember that.
JOHNSON: Down in Commerce, Oklahoma.
Okay, let's get a little background here. Where did you go to school?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I went to high school in Columbus, Kansas. My dad took
me underground when I was 11 years old, because I was the oldest of 11
children. I had three brothers and seven sisters. Dad, of course, was
JOHNSON: Was it his own coal mine; did he own the mine?
CUNNINGHAM: No, no.
JOHNSON: He just worked for a coal mine operator. And you had to do some
mining yourself; you had to go down and dig coal when you were eleven
or twelve years old?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, he just took me down during the summer vacation, you
know, in the mine we were working. He got me a little shovel and took
me underground, more I think to teach me. I stayed there until I graduated
from high school [in 1913]. Dad had been promoted then. The local union
was in the little town where we lived and they promoted him to that. But
there was no such thing as Rolla, or a school of mines around there then.
There was one in Colorado and the one at Rolla [Missouri], of course,
and the people in Kansas were hollering; they
wanted a school of mines too.
So, just about the time, right after I got out of high school, they took
an old high school building there and made that a school of mines for
Kansas. That's at Webb City. I was raised four miles north of Columbus.
JOHNSON: What city was that where they set up the school?
CUNNINGHAM: Webb City. They set up the third floor, and when they first
started, I went up there and joined them. The street car line went through
my dad's farm, just about a hundred feet from the barn, and I could go
from there. I think it was about 10 miles from where I was living. It
was fine, except when the people on these cars went on strike; then I
had to get up in the morning and walk ten miles, and then in the evening
come home and carry my book and read. I did that sometimes eight or ten
days at a time.
JOHNSON: That was after you finished high school, or during high school?
CUNNINGHAM: Just as soon as I finished high school.
JOHNSON: You went to this school of mines.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, for two years. My dad wanted me to go to college, and
of course, that's the reason I was up to Webb City. I stayed at home.
You see, I'd take the
street car and go. It only cost me a dime to go either way. Then I could
stay home and do my studying and stuff there. But then I had a chance
to go to Missouri School of Mines at Rolla -- that's where I wanted to
go. I got an encouraging letter from them to come up there; they would
So I went up there with a couple of the other fellows that still live
here in Kansas you know. I went up there as a junior, in 1916.
JOHNSON: Did you get your degree there?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes I did [after the war]. I went there as a junior.
One day, when all this war stuff was going on, the dean of the school
there at Rolla -- that was one of the really big schools -- got word that
they wanted all the guys that were taking engineering education to go
to a training school of some kind. They were going to need them in the
war somewhere. But they only wanted seniors, and I was a junior. Well,
they picked three juniors that were there, and I was one of the juniors
but had enough grades to be called in as a senior. We went in there and
talked to him and he said, "Now, listen, I want to tell you what;
they want you as engineers. You don't have to take it, but if you don't
go up to that training school and get a degree, you'll be drafted then
just as common old everyday soldiers.
That was when World War I was on you know, and they were looking for students
JOHNSON: What year was this?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, now, let's see. I don't remember just when the date
was [Cunningham enlisted in the Army in May 1917 at Fort Riley, Kansas.
See Appendix I for a chronology of his military service.] but I went with
the gang down to the training school headquarters here in Kansas. They
had a school for the Army. They sent most of us down there; most of us
got this doggone walking you know, walking, walking around.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, marching, and I didn't like that.
JOHNSON: Where was that camp?
CUNNINGHAM: That was close to Lawrence, Kansas, at Fort Riley, Kansas.
They asked me if I liked it one time and I said, "No, I don't like
it." I got married just about that time; that was [December 20] 1917,
I remember that.
JOHNSON: You got married before you went into the Army, or after?
CUNNINGHAM: After I went in. Now, while I was up there word came that
they wanted some men to come down to Deming,
New Mexico. I went down there, to Camp Cody, and it was just about the
same as up here -- just walk all day and run and make charges, you know.
We'd get out there and take our pistols, twelve of us, and six of them
would run ahead and plop, and then we'd protect them; that was just in
theory, you know. Then they'd lay there so long, and we'd get up and run
past them. And you talk about the weeds and all those things down there!
If they weren't a mess, and bugs -- whooo. That lasted about four months.
The guy down there was this Scotchman and I get pretty well acquainted
with him. He said, "You really don't like this, do you, Cunningham?"
I said, "No." He said, "What would you like?" I said,
"I'll tell you what I think I'd like; it would be in artillery or
something where you do something like engineering, a certain amount of
work in engineering, where you figure all the stuff you know." He
said, "Well, that sounds pretty good."
Oh, I don't know about how long after that, he came to me one day and
he said, "Listen, I'm going to send you up to Oklahoma. There's going
to be a meeting up there of some of the big people from Washington, D.C.
just to see how the different units look like, you know." He said,
"Would you like to go up there and spend a week or two?" I said,
"I sure would."
JOHNSON: Do you remember his name?
CUNNINGHAM: No I don't.
JOHNSON: Did you go to Oklahoma, to Camp Doniphan?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. [Transferred there on October 19, 1917.]
JOHNSON: These would be Army generals, Army officers who were meeting?
CUNNINGHAM: And people interested in the Army.
JOHNSON: At Camp Doniphan now you're talking about?
CUNNINGHAM: In Oklahoma, yes. Anyhow, they were short one man on one
of the four guns. I think there was a little Scotch in him, but he and
I got along pretty well. I'd been there, oh I guess for several weeks
or maybe a month or two -- I've forgotten just when -- and he said, "Cunningham,
would you like to stay here?" I said, "I'd rather be here than
a hundred places like that down there." "Well," he said,
"I'll talk to the man in charge here;" that was Harry S. Truman.
Truman called me in one night and he said, "Say, do you really mean
that you would like to stay here and be on the number one gun? Would you
like to stay and study and be put with that?" I said, "I'll
try it." "Well," he said, "I'll see what I can do
to get to keep you." And he sent word down to New Mexico and that
guy said, "That's just exactly what I want you to do, because I
know that he's not satisfied down here." So they kept me here.
JOHNSON: That was the first time you met Harry Truman?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes. I had been there a couple of weeks before I met
him. Yes, and they had some big shots; they were making the rounds of
different plants you know, and they were going to stop there. That was
artillery, of course, down there.
JOHNSON: At Doniphan.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, and they were going to put on a show, how you shoot
the guns, you know. I don't know what caused it, but there was really
some big shots from Washington, D.C. I think there were six or seven of
them, and they wanted to put on a show; they wanted Truman to put on a
show. They said, "Okay, we'll give you a pair of field glasses, powerful
field glasses," and this was when there were clouds up there. They
had guns and they had them shoot up, and then the bullet would disappear
in the cloud. They didn't give me a pair of field glasses but I stood
there and watched them. They shot them and you could see them about that
time up in the sky.
JOHNSON: You could see the projectile, you could actually see the shell,
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, you could see it.
JOHNSON: They were shooting into the clouds.
CUNNINGHAM: Into the clouds, yes. I don't know what happened but one
of the guys there evidently didn't see very good, one of those big guys
from Washington. I said, "There it is, coming down on the other side."
He said, "You're a damn fool; it's not even up there." Three
of the other guys that had the glasses, they saw them [the projectiles]
all right you know; and they said, "Well, did you really see them?"
I said, "Yes, I saw them." I had an awfully good pair of eyes.
JOHNSON: So you were out at this firing practice and you saw this without
your spyglass, or binoculars. What did they do then? They made you an
officer apparently. You were a first lieutenant, weren't you?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, first this guy who had been my friend, who I thought
was a Scotchman, he talked to Truman about it. He said, "I know the
way he talks, the things he had in school, and things like that. I believe
that he could learn this kind of business." Well, anyhow, Truman
said, "Would you really like to come here?" I said, "Yes,
I would like to." He got me transferred there and put me on number
one gun, and that's where I stayed [except for January 1918 when he was
an instructor at
Camp Funston, Kansas].
JOHNSON: Are we talking about the fall and winter of 1917? Do you remember
when you went to Camp Doniphan?
CUNNINGHAM: No, I don't.
JOHNSON: Do you remember going to the canteen down there. You know, Truman
and Jacobson ran the canteen. Do you remember that? Do you remember the
canteen at Camp Doniphan? Do you remember Jacobson?
JOHNSON: You don't remember Eddie Jacobson? What was your first impression
CUNNINGHAM: Well, he and one of the guys in there had a little store,
Truman and them, and that's...
JOHNSON: Yes, that's the canteen we're talking about. Did you use the
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes. Yes.
JOHNSON: But Truman made you, was it head of the section, section 1 of
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, number one gun.
JOHNSON: What was your job then with that section one gun?
CUNINGHAM: Just the same as all the rest of them that had been there;
they were trained on it.
JOHNSON: Did you calculate the firing angles and so on?
JOHNSON: You calculated those?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Then we got orders to get ready to get our stuff all
put on the train, that we might be leaving. We put the guns on the flat
cars you know, and then we got orders then from Washington, D.C. Those
orders came out to all of us you know "Don't ever tell who you are
or where you are going. Don't say what you're going to." And there
were those guns sitting up there, and all those things, with great big
letters, "Battery D." Yet, don't tell anybody you know.
JOHNSON: Did your train go through Kansas City, Missouri?
CUNNINGHAM: No. The word got out that that train was going through Kansas
City, and many of the fellows were from up around Kansas City. But, you
know, for some reason they changed and sent us up through Rolla. I don't
know why. They had two breakdowns going up there, when they had their
guns on there. They had given us orders to put our things in bags you
know, and some of us just threw our bags up on those flat cars. They told
they're just going to run down and get the engine and then they'll be
right back and hook onto us.
I told them that my mother and dad and my wife was coming down. We just
had a breakfast. They said just tell them to wait out there. We had to
go about six or seven miles from the training camp to get on the main
line. Anyhow, they hooked up under those trains, and I started to walk
over to mom and dad you know, and the guy said, "Hey, get back on
They [the train] finally got into the edge of St. Louis and we were told,
"Now, listen, don't tell anybody who that outfit is." There
was thousands of people there, including the people from Kansas City.
That's when we were cautioned, "Now, don't tell anybody what you
are." And I'll tell you, I never saw so much pieces of cake and pies
and stuff these people had brought down, you know. We had a caboose on
the end of that train; that's where I rode.
JOHNSON: Was this in St. Louis?
JOHNSON: It was in St. Louis where they met you with the cakes and that
sort of thing.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, they had brought a lot of them down. They thought the
train was going to go through Kansas City,
and there was a lot of them who came down there [to St. Louis], you know.
JOHNSON: So, eventually you got to New York City.
JOHNSON: Did you know McKinley Wooden by this time? He was the chief
mechanic. Did you know him by this time?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't recall.
JOHNSON: You don't remember him by this time, but you know who he is,
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Oh yes.
JOHNSON: Well then you get to New York City, right?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, yes.
JOHNSON: To get on the ship to go to France. [According to his diary,
Cunningham traveled to England on the Saxonia, via Halifax, Nova
Scotia, from May 20-June 6, 1918.]
Were they taking you to Europe by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. We didn't know where we were going; they put us on there
and told us to be sure and take our pack of clothes. Well, I was standing
by one of these guys
from Texas that I really liked, and it was tiresome standing up there
you know. After we'd been riding for an hour or so, he says, "Where
are we going, Cunningham?" I said, "Well, we're going across
the ocean to London." "Oh, how long will that take?" I
said, "That will take eight or ten days." "Oh," he
said, "I can't stand it, I'm tired now," a whole two hours.
JOHNSON: But then you didn't go to London; you went to France, didn't
CUNNINGHAM: No, we went to the river that comes out of London.
JOHNSON: The Thames?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, the Thames River; that was the Thames River.
JOHNSON: You went into the Thames?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, and they put us on boats then and took us right up to
London. We stayed in London just about a week.
JOHNSON: And then they put you on a ship again and took you to France?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, took us to -- what is that big lake between
London and France?
JOHNSON: Well, the channel, the English Channel. Took you across the
Channel, to France?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, in France.
JOHNSON: Do you remember the name of the ship that took you across the
CUNNINGHAM: No, I don't.
JOHNSON: Was all of Battery D, or most of Battery D on that ship?
CUNNINGHAM: There was about five or six ships and we all stayed together.
[Cunningham's diary, entry of May 23, 1917, mentions a "transport
of 18 ships."] The slowest ship pretty near set the speed. Of course,
they were watching all of the time.
JOHNSON: Okay, now, you get to France. Did you go to Camp Coetquidan?
Do you remember that name?
CUNNINGHAM: Camp what?
JOHNSON: Camp Coetquidan in France. That's where Truman got more artillery
training over there. You don't remember being at Camp Coetquidan?
JOHNSON: Well, where do you remember being? Where did you first go after
you reached France?
CUNNINGHAM: After a while, they sent me up to artillery training school.
JOHNSON: Do you remember where that was?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. It was one of the famous places for training that way.
JOHNSON: That wasn't Coetquidan? That name doesn't ring a bell, Coetquidan?
CUNNINGHAM: I believe it was. Yes, that was it. [Cunningham's diary states
that on June 17 he was sent to Coetquidan, to the artillery training school,
and on July 14 he was transferred to Battery C]
JOHNSON: Did you see Harry Truman at that camp?
CUNNINGHAM: He might have been there. But, you see, that's the place
where they put one of those things that goes up in the air, you know;
JOHNSON: A balloon?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. They would go up. I think it would go up about two or
three hundred feet, depending upon the
degree of the weather of course. [In his diary, Cunningham states he took
his "first trip" in a balloon on November 5, 1918.]
JOHNSON: An observation balloon.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, that's what they were.
JOHNSON: They had a fellow there in the basket to observe the enemy?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes. I had never been in a basket and they put me in
there with one of the fellows that was down there. It might have been
somebody that knew me, but anyhow I got up there, and boy, that basket
looked big down on the ground, but when you got up there and it'd just
tip a little bit, and he'd come over on the same side that I was. I think
he found it was just fun to try to tip it a little bit, you know.
JOHNSON: Didn't they give you parachutes? You didn't have a parachute?
JOHNSON: No parachute, huh?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I'll tell you. While I was up there the few days I
went up I got about used to it. But this same guy was telling me, "Listen,
this is probably going
to be about the last week that we're going to have these darn things to
go up there." He was an observer, you know, able to see a long way.
He said, "I'll tell you, they're getting too many of these things
shot down because they're targets you know." And he said, "The
trouble was they'd shoot into the bag up there, and it would fall faster
than anything hanging beneath." They said they were going to try
an experiment and fix some way to make the thing that you were in, you
know, after the thing above it burned up. They put some rocks in it [the
basket] one time, and they wanted a volunteer to put one out the side
of it and cut them both loose at the same time, and the one with the rocks
on it, see how much faster it would fall. Nobody would volunteer; I sure
wouldn't. They said, "It won't hurt you." Boy, it went a lot
faster than the one we were in, and those rocks just bounced way up. I
don't know whether they ever did quit that because...
JOHNSON: Did you ever go up in a balloon after that training camp? Did
you ever have to go up in a balloon when you were in combat with the Germans?
CUNNINGHAM: Just at camp.
JOHNSON: Did you ever see Truman go up in a basket?
JOHNSON: His eyesight wasn't too good. Remember his thick glasses?
CUNNINGHAM: I know, yes. Anyhow, finally we got the orders to get ready,
to go down there to the foot of the Vosges Mountains. Epinal, I think
that was the name of the town, wasn't it?
JOHNSON: Epinal, that may be. [Jay M. Lee, The Artilleryman
(Kansas City, MO: 1920), p. 53, notes that the 129th Field Artillery moved
through Epernay and Epinal, and detrained at Saulxures on August 19-20.
Lee lists Cunningham (p. 333) as a line officer, and says that lieutenants
served at various times with different batteries (p. 331).]
CUNNINGHAM: I think it was. I think it was the Vosges Mountains, near
JOHNSON: Right. What did you do down there?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, we took our guns up and put them in, and loaded them,
and here come three French officers that had a lot of experience. Boy,
I'll tell you, there's one of the best class of people I ever worked with,
because they appreciated that America was helping them out you know. They
came out and checked our guns and they said, "You've got your guns
set up all right; it's important how you put that leg [spade] into the
ground, you know, because when that shell goes off it sometimes
might otherwise kick it out." Whatever you're going to shoot at,
you know, it would change that...
JOHNSON: Change the angle, yes.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Well, anyhow they come and looked at them and they said,
"You've done real good." They stayed with us. They said, "We've
got orders to stay with you until we're damn sure that you're all right,
because you might get hit and the whole damn bunch of you get killed,
you know, if you don't know just what to do."
JOHNSON: Do you remember the first time that German shells exploded in
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I know that; I saw that happen. Well now, here's what
happened. We had loaded the guns, I told you; we had loaded the guns,
and those Frenchmen walked up to check them and they were standing close.
The guy on the number one gun, he wanted to start shooting right away.
Truman was standing up there looking at one of them, and I was standing
up, oh about as far as from here to the road, from this guy at the gun.
JOHNSON: About 60 feet.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. Now, tell me why I did what I did. I was watching, you
know, because I know those darn things; the big old shells when they hit
the ground they flew
into thousands of pieces. That's what the Germans shot with, a lot.
I was watching. Truman told me, "Son, listen, don't you tell that
guy or anybody to shoot; you can't, until we get orders from headquarters,
on what kind of firing or where we are supposed to shoot." I was
standing there just kind of waiting, to see what might happen. Something
happened in my mind; I don't know how it happened. (I'll tell you about
it in the coal mines too sometime). I moved back about five feet, Truman
was up there a little ways, and one of those darn shells hit between Truman
and me on the ground. This fellow in the first gun, he had got up and
walked out and that piece hit him right there, a big piece hit him. Truman
took him by the legs. Well, I think it scratched a little bit of Truman's
insignia on there, but this, it just made an awful big cut right there.
If I had stayed where I was, boy, I wouldn't have had a chance. [Interviewer's
note: This episode is not related in the letters or memoirs of Harry S.
Truman, nor in Jay M. Lee, The Artilleryman (Kansas City, MO,
1920), nor in the oral history interviews the Truman Library has conducted
with several other veterans of Battery D. See Cunningham's diary, entry
of August 24, 1918, in which he mentions "one man of 139th [not 129th]
is killed." There is no mention of Truman's presence.]
JOHNSON: You mean you were cut across the chin by some shrapnel?
JOHNSON: You still have a scar?
CUNNINGHAM: I had a scar for pretty near a year. They sent me over to
that big hospital over there.
JOHNSON: So you were wounded the first time that the Germans shelled
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, it made an awful sore place there.
JOHNSON: But who was the gunner who was wounded? Do you remember that
gunner that you mentioned, that was in the number one gun?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, he was in the number one gun.
JOHNSON: Do you remember what his name was?
CUNNINGHAM: I kind of think it was Robertson. I may be mistaken on that.
JOHNSON: But he was wounded by shrapnel in the stomach?
CUNNINGHAM: He was killed.
JOHNSON: Oh, he was killed?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, yes. When Truman picked him up by the legs, every bit
of his stomach ran down there on the thing.
JOHNSON: On the ground?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, he was deader than a door nail. And Truman, I heard that
that was supposed to be in the place there, but I don't know whether it
is or not, just a little...
JOHNSON: You mean it nicked his insignia?
JOHNSON: On the shoulder, or what did it do...
CUNNINGHAM: It didn't hurt his shoulder; it just knocked the little insignia
that he had on there, but I don't know if that was true or not.
JOHNSON: But you heard that it nicked, or it knocked off, the insignia
on Truman's shoulder?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, on his jacket, yes.
JOHNSON: Now Truman's never mentioned that. Harry Truman has never mentioned
that. I wonder why?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't know.
JOHNSON: But you're sure that this is what happened? You were there and
you saw it? You're sure that that's what happened, that's what you saw?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, one of the fellows picked me up and put me on a plane
and sent me right over to the place there to
get it fixed up, because it was...
JOHNSON: Well, not on a plane; you mean an ambulance or what?
CUNNINGHAM: No, on a plane. These French officers, most of them lived
there, and they had...
JOHNSON: Oh, they had one of the airplanes there, and they put you on
one of the airplanes?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, they put me in there and sent me to there. Yes, took
me to the hospital. Here's a picture; that's where I was when I come out.
JOHNSON: This picture that you have right here. When was that taken?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, that was taken long after I got home.
JOHNSON: This one right here?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, that's the same one.
JOHNSON: I don't see any scar there on your chin, but you say there was
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, I didn't have it on the chin, because you see it was
quite a little while, and they fixed it up pretty good down there.
JOHNSON: But you were wounded on this...
CUNNINGHAM: Well, it just made an awful sore chin. And they fixed it up
pretty good. I was only there in the hospital just a few days.
JOHNSON: Do you remember where that hospital was?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, it was in that big point down there at the southwest
corner of France.
JOHNSON: Do you remember the town that that hospital was near?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I'd have to look at the map to remember.
JOHNSON: But this was in the Vosges Mountains? This was in late August
CUNNINGHAM: I've forgotten when.
JOHNSON: Do you remember the so-called "Battle of Who Run"?
Have you heard of the "Battle of Who Run?" when a German shell
fell into the area of Battery D and one of the sergeants said, "Run
men, they've bracketed us; they've bracketed us." They started running,
and Truman yelled at them and got them to stop and get their equipment
and get it out of there. Do you remember that phrase, "Battle of
CUNNINGHAM: No, I don't; that might have happened right after that first
shot, during the five or six days I was
gone, but I don't remember it.
JOHNSON: This happened on the first day of combat that you're talking
about when you were wounded?
JOHNSON: That was the first day of combat. That was the first time that
Battery D fired at the Germans?
CUNNINGHAM: They hadn't fired when I left yet.
JOHNSON: They hadn't fired yet. In other words, you were fired on first.
The Germans fired on you first?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. As far as I remember, because I never saw anything else.
And those Frenchmen were there. They were watching us too, you know.
JOHNSON: Do you remember Colonel [Karl] Klemm who was in charge of the
129th Field Artillery Regiment? Do you remember Colonel Klemm?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't remember him.
JOHNSON: Do you remember a [Lt. Colonel Arthur J.] Elliott?
JOHNSON: Who were the other people there in Battery D that you recall
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I could tell you by looking at that thing there.
JOHNSON: Oh, on these group pictures you have here?
JOHNSON: Well, let's mention some names here and see if these bring back
any memories to you.
Well, we've mentioned Ted Marks of Battery C; do you remember that name?
Do you remember Ted Marks?
JOHNSON: Eddie McKim?
CUNNINGHAM: I don't remember.
JOHNSON: Vere Leigh, or Harry Murphy?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, you see, we didn't stay very long in those hills. They
wanted help up -- where was that place -- the other place where they were
fighting, the Americans were fighting, and they were having trouble with
JOHNSON: Okay, do you remember Kruth? In mid-August of 1918 you marched
from the Vosges to Saulxures to Kruth. And then you were ordered to fire
chlorine gas at the Germans for practice; this was on August 28. Do you
remember firing chlorine gas shells? [Cunningham's diary entry of August
25 says he rode into Kruth that day and stayed all night with the drivers.
Diary entries indicate Cunningham was in Tours and Bordeaux from August
26 to 28, and from August 28 to September 29 he was serving as an instructor
for the 301st Field Artillery on use of the 75 mm. gun. On September 30
he was assigned to similar duty with the 338th Field Artillery, and apparently
he remained with them for at least a week in October. No mention is made
of firing gas shells.]
CUNNINGHAM: I don't remember that.
JOHNSON: Do you remember Eddie Meisburger? Housholder, Vic Householder?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes, there was a Housholder I knew, yes. A big tall fellow,
JOHNSON: And Harry Murphy. Do you remember Harry Murphy?
CUNNINGHAM: I remember that name.
JOHNSON: Now, you were a first lieutenant, right?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. [Promoted to first lieutenant on September 17, 1918.]
JOHNSON: Were you assigned only to Battery D, or were you assigned to
other batteries as well?
CUNNINGHAM: No, just Battery D, all the time. [See preceding note re.
diary entry, indicating he served with other units, also.]
JOHNSON: You were always assigned to Battery D. Who did you report to?
JOHNSON: You reported directly to Harry Truman. After you went to the