Remains Identified - announced 11/13/2015

Name: Kenneth Leroy Cunningham
Rank/Branch: E2/US Army
Unit: 225th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 21 January 1948 (Olney IL)
Home City of Record: Ellery IL
Date of Loss: 03 October 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 145719N 1075326E (ZB109553)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1C
Refno: 1496
Other Personnel In Incident: Paul L. Graffe (missing)

Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2020.


SYNOPSIS: The OV1C Mohawk aircraft was designed as a battlefield
reconnaissance aircraft and was used primarily by the U.S. Army. The various
models were outfitted with different detection equipment. The standard
aircraft was not armed, but some carried various weapons. The C model
featured infared detection equipment and a forward-aimed camera. Because the
North Vietnamese and Viet Cong relied so heavily upon darkness to conceal
their activities, the infared sensor proved especially valuable.

On October 3, 1969, 1Lt. Paul L. Graffe, pilot; and PFC Kenneth L.
Cunningham, observer; departed Phu Hiep, South Vietnam, during the early
evening on a surveillance mission of targets located in the northwest
portion of MR2 (Military Region 2) in the tri-border area of Cambodia, Laos
and South Vietnam.

The aircraft (serial #61-02679) failed to return at the scheduled time. The
last radio contact with Graffe and Cunningham was at 1800 hours when another
OV1 aircraft had been informed by Grasse that they were going to continue
their mission for about 30 more minutes, and then begin the return trip to
Phu Hiep. All further attempts at electronic contact with the missing OV1
were unsuccessful.

On the morning of October 5, search and rescue aircraft located the wreckage
of an aircraft atop a 7,000 foot peak in a mountain range north of the city
of Kontum. This wreckage was positively identified as that of Graffe and
Cunningham. Efforts were made to insert a ground team at the site on October
5 and 6, but inclement weather prevented the team from being inserted. On
neither occasion was either visual or electronic contact made with the
downed crew.

On the morning of October 7, another attempt was made to insert a ground SAR
team. However, the SAR pilots noticed a change in position in the aircraft
wreckage, and the SAR aircraft was receiving continuous beeper signals from
the ground. Since this continuous beeper signal was not compatible with
established emergency radio procedures, the SAR flight leader directed that
the site was probably a trap and withdrew from the area. Both crewmembers
were declared Missing In Action.

Graffe and Cunningham are among nearly 3000 Americans who were missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia at the end of the war. Unlike
the MIAs from other wars, most of these men can be accounted for.
Tragically, over 10,000 reports relating to missing Americans in Southeast
Asia have been received by the U.S., convincing many authorities that
hundreds of men are still alive in captivity, yet freedom for them seems
beyond our grasp.



Missing from the Vietnam War, Staff Sergeant Kenneth Leroy Cunningham has now been accounted for.

On 3 October 1969, Private First Class Kenneth Leroy Cunningham was assigned as observer-crewmember
aboard an OV-1C aircraft. Pfc. Cunningham and the pilot were conducting a nighttime infrared surveillance
mission when they failed to return at the scheduled time. Search-and-Rescue efforts were initiated, and on
October 5th, 1969 a SAR aircraft located OV-1 wreckage atop a 7,000-foot mountain peak north of Kon Tum
Town, Vietnam. Efforts to land a search party were unsuccessful due to inclement weather conditions and
further efforts by SAR teams were abandoned due to hostile activity in the area. While in a Missing-in-Action
status, Pfc. Cunningham was promoted to Staff Sergeant and later declared dead, body not recovered.

In 1997, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam team excavated the crash site where possible remains,
personal gear and uniform items, and life support equipment items were recovered. Later, in 2010, a joint
team excavated a possible burial within the area of the crash site where additional material evidence and
multiple life support items were recovered.

Laboratory analysis and the totality of the circumstantial evidence available establish the remains as those
of Staff Sergeant Kenneth Leroy Cunningham.

Interment is planned for Staff Sgt. Cunningham’s birthday, January 21st, 2016 in Little Prairie Cemetery, Alboin IL



ALBION, Ill. — The remains of an airman listed as "missing in action" during the Vietnam War have been

Officials with the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the remains of Pfc. Kenneth Leroy Cunningham of
Ellery, Illinois.

He had been missing since Oct. 3, 1969. He was 21 at the time.

Cunningham's remains will be flown back to the United States later this month, arriving at the airport in
Louisville, Kentucky on Jan 19. His remains will be escorted back to Albion, Illinois for funeral services
and burial at the Little Prairie Christian Church on Jan. 21....





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On November 13, 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Staff Sergeant Kenneth Leroy Cunningham, missing from the Vietnam War.

Staff Sergeant Cunningham joined the U.S. Army from Illinois and was a member of the 225th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group. On October 3, 1969, he was a crew member aboard an OV-1C Mohawk on a night surveillance mission that crashed on a mountain peak in Kon Tum Town, Vietnam. He was killed in the incident. Search and rescue teams located the Mohawk's wreckage on the mountain but inclement weather and hostile activity prevented ground teams from reaching the site. After the war, joint U.S. and Vietnamese search teams excavated the crash site and a possible burial site connected to the incident, resulting in the recovery of human remains. In 2015, modern forensic techniques allowed for the recovered remains to be identified as those of SSG Cunningham.

Staff Sergeant Cunningham is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.