The Winfield Scott Cunningham collection consists of correspondence, documents regarding World War II, manuscripts, and other items.
Correspondence in the collection touches on all aspects of Cunningham’s career as an Admiral of the U.S. Navy during World War II, his defense of Wake Island against the invading Japanese army, his imprisonment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, and the post-war controversy regarding the defense of Wake Island (for which James P. S. Devereux received much of the official credit). The letters date from 1937 to 1980, and include letters from George W. Anderson, Hanson W. Baldwin, George Barr, James P. S. Devereux, Karl Dönitz, Gerald Ford, William F. Halsey, Cordell Hull, Estes Kefauver, Ernest J. King, Frank Knox, Robert M. LaFollette, William B. McKean, Samuel E. Morison, Chester W. Nimitz, Paul A. Putnam, Lydell Sims, Nathan Dan Teters, and Harry Truman. Significant groups of letters are present regarding letters from Cunninham’s wife Louise (1941-1945); letters regarding the role of the U.S. Navy in the defense of Wake Island (1941-1975); the civilians on Wake Island and efforts to secure recognition and compensation for them (1944-1948); Cunninham’s military orders (1945-1950); the war crimes investigation (1945-1958); Michael Griffin, a journalist writing a book regarding Wake Island (1958); Cunningham’s return to Wake Island after the war (1962-1963); and various speeches and appearances (1960-1969).
Documents regarding World War II in the collection are extensive. They include Cunningham’s flight log book, with handwritten entries (1945-1950); his U.S. Navy identification cards; copies of his citation for the defense of Wake Island, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt; official reports of the battle by various participants; copied documents from the Japanese POW camp, including orders, regulations, reports on prison life, etc. (1942-1945); a hand-drawn map of the prison in China where Cunningham was held, as well as his statement on his treatment as a prisoner for the war crimes investigation; various pamphlets and newsletters from ex-prisoner of war organizations (1940s and 1960s); and other items.
Manuscripts in the collection include accounts of the work of Dr. Shank on Wake Island (!941, 1942); an interview with Louise Cunningham (1944); and a biographical essay on Cunningham by his great-nephew Gregory Robert Cunningham, with an annotated bibliography (2000).
Other items in the collection include Cunningham’s official military appointments (1923-1950), including his appointment as Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy; a press release from the office of Congressman Gary Brown regarding his attempt to rectify Franklin D. Roosevelt’s failure to include Cunningham in his Presidential Commendation for the defense of Wake Island; and several printed items regarding Wake Island, the U.S. Navy, and World War II in general.