He registered for the WW II draft on 16 October 1940 while living at 801 Mary St., Texarkana, AR. He decribed himself as 6’, 178 lbs, with blond hair and blue eyes. He enlisted in Little Rock, Arkansas, on 3 July 1942. He was trained in the maintenance and operation of the .50 caliber aerial machineguns on the B-29 Superfortress. He was the right waist gunner the day he was killed. On 21 November 1944, a B-29, # 42-6278, “Acid Test,” of the 20th Air Force, 462nd Bomb Group, 770th Bomb Squadron, Piardoba, India, departed the airfield at Kulainglai, China, on a bombing mission to Omura, Japan. It was fired upon by enemy aircraft over the target aircraft assembly plant at Omura, Japan, at about 0802 hours. Capt. Abranovic reported that they had just left the target and were making a right turn when a B-29 was reported spinning to the ground from an altitude of about 22,000 feet. Lt.Col. Sullivan reported that B-29 #278 was out of control and entered a spin after a fighter attack over Omura, Japan, and that it passed under his B-29. Capt. Johnson reported that an enemy fighter attacked and #278 went out of control, turning to the left and nearly colliding with # 389. He saw the B-29 to their left going down in a vertical spin to the right. His gunners reported the B-29 still spinning at about 5,000 feet below them before sight of it was lost. No parachutes were seen. He and his crew are remembered on the memorial wall of the Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines, and on the Tablets of the Missing, Hawaii.
His brother, Jack W. Cornelius, born 25 September 1915, served as a Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps (# 16528365), from 19 November 1942 to 14 November 1945 then re-enlisted 19 January 1948 and died on active duty during the Korean War on 13 December 1950. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 11 Marines, 4th Battalion, Battery K (155 Millimeter Gun (Artillery). He was buried in the Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO. He was married (18 March 1938) to Carra Thelma (Harris) Cornelius (1911-1990), 7345 West 23rd Ave., Lakewood, CO. He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, the Purple Heart and related service and campaign medals.
His brother, Eugene Cornelius, born 8 April 1925, served in the U.S. Navy from 30 October 1945 to 26 October 1927.
His paternal grandfather, James W. Cornelius, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, Arkansas Infantry, Col. Miller’s Regiment, Capt. Norman’s Company, and received a Civil War pension.