The Suburbanite
  • WWII Then and Now: Tedious flying broken by intense fighting

  • Gordon R. “Dick” Dunbar thinks a chance meeting with a fellow Canton resident may have saved his life during World War II.

    • email print
  • Gordon R. “Dick” Dunbar thinks a chance meeting with a fellow Canton resident may have saved his life during World War II.
    A radio man and gunner aboard a PBJ — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of the Army’s B-25 bomber — in the 612th Squadron of the 3rd Marine Air Wing was being transferred to another squadron when he encountered an officer that he recognized as an athlete in his hometown.
    “I told him that I’d been with the 612th for awhile and wanted to stay, so he crossed my name off the list and moved me back over to the 612th,” said Dunbar.
    Many of the men in the other squadron were killed in action, he said.
    Such were the fortunes of war for Dunbar, who grew up in the northwest section of Canton, graduated from Timken High School, and was attending college in California when he and several friends from Canton returned to Ohio to enlist in 1943.
    “One of my friends went into the Navy, two went into the Army, and one went into the Seabees,” said Dunbar. “I joined the Marines.”
    Sent to the Pacific Theater as a member of a five-man bomber crew, Dunbar flew mostly long and low-altitude missions in stripped-down planes carrying small bombs and rockets.
    “We flew anywhere from 11 to 13 hours,” said Dunbar. “We were going after shipping, and when we made our attack it was from about 300 feet over the water.”
    Dunbar’s squadron flew at night, with tedious stretches devoted to making the trip to a target.
    “Usually, it’s 99 percent boredom, but when it isn’t boredom it’s total hell. It’s real bad. We lost a good many guys.”
    Dunbar remembers joking with a gunner on another crew about who was better looking. The other man was set to fly a mission that night, and he ended the good-natured debate by saying, “If I don’t come back, you’ll be the best looking guy in the squadron.”
    “He didn’t come back,” said Dunbar softly. “His plane caught on fire and he jumped out at a high altitude. Never saw him again.”
    Dunbar coped with combat by figuring he would be killed in it.
    “I decided I was dead,” he explained. “When you do that, you quit worrying.”
    Dunbar was stationed in Okinawa when he was told he could go home. He was discharged in November 1945, later graduating from Bowling Green State University with a degree in education.
    After teaching industrial arts at McKinley High School from 1949 to 1957, he spent two years teaching in Frankfurt, Germany, before returning to Canton to teach at Lincoln and Lehman high schools. He was an assistant principal at Taft Junior High School and principal at Middlebranch Elementary School in the Plain Local School District, retiring in 1978 as assistant principal at GlenOak High School.
    Page 2 of 2 - He and his wife, Wilma, also an educator who taught for Plain Local, had three children: Linda Linder, Carol Christofer and Richard Dunbar. Together they have enjoyed traveling. Boating also has been part of their lives, with Dunbar serving as assistant national treasurer and budget director of United States Power Squadron.
    The war has faded to the background for Dunbar. Reunions of the 612th Squadron have ended.
    “There are only about 30 of us left,” Dunbar said.
    Then, last fall, a package came in the mail, sent to surviving squadron members by a former Marine in Pennsylvania. In it was a hat, with “3rd Marine Air Wing, VMB-612” printed on the front.
    “I was just tickled to death.”

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

      Events Calendar