Why was the Greatest B-17 Gunner Erased From History?
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Hewitt Dunn is the greatest B-17 gunner and crew member of WWII flying over 104 total combat missions over Europe for the 8th Air Force.
But is this legendary man’s name common among history’s pages? Well, not quite. His story has been wiped out from records, especially his mysterious death. Dun Vanished at just 41 years old and many who knew him didn’t really know what became of him.
Hewitt Dunn enlisted in the US Army in 1942 just days after turning 23 years old. He passed his training as a heavy bomber gunner with flying colors and was assigned to the 390th bomb group.
By the time 1945 rolled in, the crew referred to Dun as the Iron Man- the invincible gunner. He had been in the front for more than a year, flying more heavy bomber missions than any other person.
Symbol of Strength and Experience
Dunn would also go on to become the symbol of strength and experience in the face of fear. Men from the 390th bomb group looked at him for certainty in any kind of mission.
In fact, years after the war, a fellow bombardier of the 569th recalled the role of Master Sgt. Dunn played in the officer briefings before the missions. Officers would watch Dunn sit on a chair, and lean back against the wall using the back two legs. Then, after the curtain was drawn and the target was exposed, if Dunn stayed leaning backward against the wall, they knew they could relax- the target was easy. However, if he leaned forward, bringing all four legs of the chair to the floor, they knew it was a tough mission and they had something to potentially fear.
Dunn would fly four more combat missions before the war’s end but the real mystery had only just begun.
After WWII, Dunn would go on to serve many other bomb groups until the 1960s. He was one of the most revered and decorated enlisted veterans in the entire Air Force until one day in 1961 were according to most sources, he simply died at age 41. However, like many other veterans, the horrors of the war for Dunn, it seemed, never left him, and it was likely that he suffered from PTSD.
Delving into the story deeper, it was found out that Dunn and his wife had a massive argument after a night of drinking and this led him to seriously beat and injure her. Then, his wife saw their young son Craig in front of the house with a rifle in hand aimed at his father. The young boy fired five shots at his father, killing him on the spot. Little Craig was simply trying to protect his mother.
A Sad End
After the incident, many publications disclosed Dunn’s death as a firearms accident with one newspaper even going as far as saying that he was merely teaching his son firearms safety when the rifle went off by accident. Also, the last thing the Air Force would want is to tarnish the record and reputation of one of the nation’s most storied military veterans especially in the middle of the Vietnam War.
It was really sad how Dunn’s story ended. He could have gotten the help he needed for his PTSD. Despite that, it doesn’t diminish the service he gave to his country and should be given the recognition he so deserved.