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First Name: Paul

Last Name: Cullen

Birthplace: PER

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Thomas

Date of Birth: 30 May 1901

Date of Death: 23 March 1951 (Presumed)

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served:
Paul Thomas Cullen

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Paul Thomas Cullen
Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force

Paul Thomas Cullen was born on 30 May 1901 in Peru.

Cullen was the first Commander of the 7th Air Division of Strategic Air Command and Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the 2nd Air Force.

He was lost and presumed killed when his C-124A Globemaster II transport ditched and sank during a routine Atlantic flight to the United Kingdom. Cullen and his command staff were picked up at Barksdale AFB by the airplane that had left Walker AFB at Roswell, NM, with almost 50 of the nation's top strategic bombing and nuclear weapons personnel from the 509th Bomb Group.

On 23 March 1951, about 800 miles southwest of Ireland, the airplane issued a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo crates. The C-124 ditched and all aboard exited safely with life preservers and climbed into life rafts equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares, and Gibson Girl hand-cranked emergency radios. A B-29 from England located the survivors, who fired several flares, but was not carrying any rescue equipment. The B-29 radioed the coordinates of the survivors and circled until it reached critical fuel level and was forced to return to base.

When the first rescue craft reached the scene 19 hours later, all that was found was a burned briefcase and a partially deflated life raft. Despite the largest air and sea search up to that time, not one body was found. Cullen and the 53 men with him had disappeared.

Later it was revealed that Soviet submarines and surface vessels were active in the area. It has been speculated that Cullen and his companions were taken aboard Soviet submarines and brought to Russia for interrogation. Due to their expertise in nuclear and other defense matters, Cullen and the other men on the airplane would have been an intelligence windfall to the Soviets. Cullen had been the air service's leading expert on aerial reconnaissance and aerial photography. He also was the Head of Photography at the Crossroads atom bomb tests in the Pacific in the late 1940s. He also had served as commander of the 2nd Operations Group on two occasions during World War II.


An Air Force trophy for excellence in aerial reconnaissance, the Brig. Gen. Paul T. Cullen Award, was named in his honor.


Brigadier General Paul Thomas Cullen is presumed to have died on 23 March 1951, lost in an airplane crash in the Atlantic Ocean. None of the 54 passengers' bodies were ever recovered.

Honoree ID: 2400   Created by: MHOH




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