MILLINGTON, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – After dozens of long years, Seaman First Class James Cunningham got the Purple Heart he earned as he went down with his ship.
Cunningham was aboard the USS Eagle when it sank in 1945. Of the 67 crew members stationed aboard, only 13 survived.
The navy originally blamed the disaster on a boiler explosion, but divers later found proof the ship had actually been hit by a torpedo. The new information meant the ship had gone down as part of a “combat loss.” Every man on board including James Cunningham earned a purple heart when it sank.
His sister was at the navy operational support center in Millington Saturday to accept the medal.
“He was the was the family character. The whole time that we were together before he joined, I was 8 when he joined the Navy, and he on the farm would go around singing into each life some rain must fall. But too much if falling in mine,” said Clara Cunningham Osborne.
Cunningham’s sister also accepted the Navy Gold Star Families pin.