World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project
Donald D. Dunn, 398th Bomb Group Tail Gunner/Spot Jammer
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Interviewer: Randy Stange
Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 2003
The 398th has been interviewing its members as part of the Timeless Voices of Aviation project. More information about the project and a current list of video interviews can be found at 398th Timeless Voices Interviews. In addition to the video interviews, some of the interviews have been transcribed to text.
Donald D. Dunn, 398th Bomb Group Tail Gunner/Spot Jammer
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force
Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
DD: 398th Tail Gunner/Spot Jammer, Donald Dunn
Q: You were born and raised in Bowling Green?
DD: Wood County on farms. Live in town now.
Q: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
DD: I had one brother, two brothers but one died early on. The other brother went into the service in 39, 1939. He got his wings in 1941. I have two sisters, they are still living, but my brother passed away about three years ago. Oldest brother.
Q: Did he serve in the Army Air Corp then?
DD: Yes, he was in about 27 years total.
Q: Do you know where he served?
DD: Well in, I knew he flew year and a half down in Italy, before he dropped air troopers and stuff behind the lines at dark. Italy was a lot of them were British, Nanos, and stuff at that time. Quite a bit around the country, different places. Some of it was a lot of reserve time too. He was called back in to Korea. Me, I had two years in, and I kinda stayed out.
Q: Were your parents farmers?
DD: My dad died when I was a kid. My mom had to take us home, four kids, to grow up on my grandparents farm. So thats how I grew up.
Q: What do you remember of the years prior to the war?
DD: High school, mainly sports, I liked sports and stuff. I was glad to get into flying; of course with my brother getting into it earlier in 1939, by 41 he had his wings, course, that was all I could think about. Soon as I got out, I tried to get in. They said I had ear trouble and Id never go in. So I sat around waiting and six months later, I get drafted. They look in like this; they ask a half dozen of us or so if we wanted to take a test, they put down Air Force, wanted to take a test for Cadet. Great. Took the same mental exam I took before and Im in, Cadet.
There was an Oklahoma man went through the flying crew and setting around waiting to get out of there and he comes a long and chopped off 36,000 of us; Said we need gunners. I was in pilot training see. Two months later, Im a gunner. Two months after that we go Walla Walla for warming the crew up. We took our training in darn B-24s. We got to England overnight.
Q: How did you get to England?
DD: Big boat. Aquitania, was supposed to been second largest one in the world. We didnt have no escort or nothing. Seven days I guess. Nothing happened. Couple wolf pack nights. No problems. We got there at dark. Next morning, bussing and everything. Raining. Typical. The next morning we finally went to walk over to the chow hall where they said it was. Took this little right and around, look over and theres B-17s sitting all over. I think we were all very happy. I was. I wouldnt have been here if it hadnt been for that 17.
Q: When did you arrive at the base?
DD: Thanksgiving Day 44
Q: What were your first impressions of station 131?
DD: I had just turned 18. It was all new to me. I had been to Cleveland once to an air show in my life before, before I got in the service. Toledo a couple times. We didnt get away from home much. Everything was just do what Im told you know.
Q: How many combat missions did you fly?
DD: Got in 22 total. We had been forced down twice in my first ten or eleven missions. I was on Jim Hanauer crew. Tail Gunner. They got according to some tech order thing, numbers I had from my test I took. They came out with something new called, Flak Jammer. For two weeks, they sent me to this school. If its alright, I will just go into this end. Go into this radio room. There was five boxes. You dialed, tuned in the German radar and then you threw a switch, supposedly to jam their radar, electronically. It seemed like it didnt work too often. In fact, Jim Hanauer had written the pilots so that we knew this was only on a couple planes on the base maybe one per squadron and whoever flew that plane that day, I flew with them, see.
Hanauer thought they usually put those jammers kind of out on the edge because it seemed like they were.. something is wrong. Anyway, day I was assigned with Howard Pinner hed already been blew up and was down. This is why I am bringing this up because even here because I am afraid that Howard wont talk for himself because he is one heck of a pilot. I wouldnt be here if it wasnt for him. Hed already ditched in the North Sea. I hope you get him to talk with you. It is in the Remembrances book and I had to talk him into that even.
But anyway, where am I? We were at Oranienburg, which is close to Berlin. Getting hit awful bad. All at once I could feel the plane jar down. Course Im in the radio room. The radio operator, I could hear a screeching noise, he got shrapnel come up by his foot, took out the oxygen system and he couldnt get his oxygen hooked up, re-hooked up. So, I got that done for him. He was trying to get his parachute on. Hooked his up, so when I went back for mine on, I look back in the back and them guys are lined up to bail out. So I had a little trouble getting mine on. I guess Id asked Pinner about it before and he said we were on fire. He put it in a dive.
Fortunately he got the stuff out with an engine or two or something. We kept going down. I guess the bombardier had been sick. Nobody knew where he was at. He just finally found a railroad track going somewhere. Course going down all the time too. He came to a good opening field; what looked like a black cinder strip. He set down on that; might have been 500 feet long. Pulled up on her nose a little bit. We was in mud. It was a town of Kutno, Poland.
Where all these people come from we dont know. But the Russian soldiers came and they got us. Course we had our hands up and stuff. Didnt know where we was or nothing, you know. Didnt think wed land behind the German lines but we didnt know. Found out eventually that they were Russian and Polish people. But they locked us up for a few days. I forget how many days. They would take us to lunch on the edges of this town with the commandant and soldiers; I guess everybody in town there, communist or something would eat in this one chow hall or something. But they would take us down there.
Finally, finally, when they let us, said well we was Americans. We got out to the plane and the engineer and I counted 250 holes and we couldnt count some in the belly cause in the mud too low. But there wasnt a scratch on the crew. We found out, be a year or so ago, Pinner, Howard Pinner got word from the Polish that they are setting up the museum over there, and we tried to send them stuff for the museum.
They found out that the Russians had loaded our B-17 on a railroad flat car and had it hauled out of there somehow. Anyway, they got us back to a place called Popova, Russia in a bunch of old busses and trucks and stuff. Open trucks and stuff back into Russia. They used to have shuttle runs in there and they would let American planes come in and get us. Get us out. We just hitchhiked back to England. Tehran, Iran.. Cairo, Egypt, Naples, Italy. Back to our base. I flew.. Pinner, right, said he had enough.. They sent them home, but I got in four more before the war ended though. Thats about it.
Q: What did you do after the war?
DD: Well, number one, I wasnt going to fly backwards, so I finished my ratings, got my commercial pilot, flight instructor rating and did a quite a bit of teaching flying and stuff. Later on a year or two my son started and got his rating and stuff and started a flying school and stuff . Helped him a lot and stuff. That wasnt my main job or nothing. Had about 4-5000 hours of instructing. Twin engine and stuff.
I spent twenty years with the dairy. A large dairy concern right close to where we had the strip and stuff. I worked my way up and was the assistant to the general manager in time. Got out, couple years was in a small Ford dealership. Got out of that, owned a resort business on a lake in Indiana for about fifteen years. Kinda liked that. After that was pretty much just helping my son with his business and stuff. We had three children, six grandchildren.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
DD: I just hope I can talk to Howard Pinner. If you get to know him, sit down with him, that man has a lot or worse trouble before I even went with him. He lost three of his men at different times. Quite a guy, quite a pilot. In fact, I talked him into to coming a few years ago to the first one. He did get with his co-pilot finally, talked with a few of his other guys. Finally got him to talking, enjoying himself. He says he tried to forget that stuff. <narrator: well some do, some do>. His daughter became a commercial pilot. So he didnt have much to with it himself, but he enjoyed himself, like I did.
- Hanauer's Crew - 603rd Squadron - 12 October 1944
- 398th Mission: 15 March 1945 to Oranienburg, Germany
- Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.
- Sgt. Donald Dunn was the Tail Gunner/Spot Jammer on Jim Hanauer's 603rd Squadron crew.
- The above transcription was provided by Amy Goll, daughter of Frank Henning, 600th Squadron in October 2007.
- The transcription was obtained from a video file.
- Punctuation, grammar and minor word changes may have been made to improve readability.
- Additional information may be shown in brackets [ ].