Richard Andrew Cantwell, Jr. was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1918, son of Richard A. Cantwell, Sr.and Elizabeth (McArdle) Cantell (both now deceased). He graduated from Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts in 1941 and entered active naval service in the V-5 Program of the Naval Reserve June 16, 1941. Following flight training at Naval Air Station Squantum, Massachusetts and Corpus Christi, Texas, he was commissioned Ensign, USNR, on July 15, 1942. He subsequently advanced in grade to Captain, USN, to date from February 1, 1963, having been selected for transfer from Naval Reserve to the Regular on October 4, 1946.
Following his commissioning in 1942 he remained at Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, as an Instructor until December 1943, when he was transferred to Naval Air Station, Hollywood, Florida for four months instruction. During June and July 1944 he was an instructor at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, after which he had further instruction at Naval Air Station, Deland and Banana River, Florida. From September 1944 to April 1946 he was an Instructor at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California, and while there was designated Naval Aviation Observer in April 1945.
After a period of Inactive duty, he returned to active naval service in October 1946 and was a student at Damage Control School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In November 1946 he reported for instruction at the Combat Information School, St. Simons Island, Georgia, and in January 1947 joined USS Dayton (CL-105) to serve initially as Main Battery Officer, then as Assistant Gunnery Officer, and finally as Navigator. Assigned in February 1949 to USS Marquette (AVA-95) as Operations Officer he remained until February 1950 when he assumed command of USS Coconino County (LST-603).
From September 1951 to July 1953 he was Gunnery Instructor at the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, then attended the General Line School, Monterey, California. In March 1954 he became Plans Officer on the Staff of Commander Amphibious Group TWO until September 1956, when he reported as Assistant Head of the Officer Programs Branch in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. He next had duty from June 1959 to November 1960 as Weapons Officer of USS Canberra (CAG-2), after which he command USS Rushmore (LSD-14).
In July he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC where he served as Head of the Budget and Planning Branch, Ships Material Readiness Division until December 1965 and the next month became Commanding Officer of USS Procyon (AF-61). In May 1967 he returned to the Officer of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, as Assistant for Programs in the Office of the Director, Antisubmarine Warfare Programs until January 1969, when he became Director of the Antisubmarine Warfare Plans and Programs Division, Office of Information, Navy Department, Washington, DC.
Captain Cantwell has the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe Clasp; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; and the Vietnam Service Medal with bronze star.
He is a member of the Army, Navy Country Club.
He died November 13, 2008.