16 January 2009

Col. John A. Dunning -- Do I Have the Right Man?

John A. Dunning
District of Columbia
Col US Air Force Res
May 28, 1906 - Mar 14, 1974
Magnolia Park Cemetery
Warner Robins, Houston County, Georgia

The gravemarker above peaked my interest for a couple of reasons. First, the idea that Mr. Dunning was from the District of Columbia. Being near a United States Air Force base, it is not uncommon to find individuals from all over the country in this cemetery. I always tend to snap a photo when I see them, though. Some researcher out there might be wondering where Col. Dunning ended up.

Second, I wondered what the acronym AFCM meant. A quick search suggested it stood for "Air Force Commendation Medal." I confirmed this with my resident expert, my father. He is a retired Chief Master Sergeant from the US Air Force, and he now works for the Department of Defense in Washington, DC.

So, I was hooked. I wanted to find out more about Col. John A. Dunning.

A search of the 1910 US Federal Census resulted in this entry:

Precint No. 10, Boise, Ada, Idaho
18th April 1910
O'Farrel St.

Dunning, Donald A. - age 35; m1; 7 yrs; b. Kansas; parents b. Missouri; occ. Lawyer
Dunning, Alice H. - age 30; m1; 7 yrs; 3 children; b. District of Columbia; parents b. New York
Dunning, John A. - age 4; b. District of Columbia
Dunning, Sarah - age 0/12; b. Idaho
Dunning, Mary - age 0/12; b. Idaho

A few other finds were pretty interesting: searching with Google, I found a copy of the 6 July 1945 edition of the Chinese Lantern, a newspaper for the U. S. Armed Forces during World War II. A short article with this photo attached was included. Under the photo was the caption, "Dunning." The article:

HQ., 14TH AIR FORCE - The "Flying Hatchet" fighter group and the "Lucky Lady" medium bombardment squadron have awarded Unit Citations for "outstanding performance of duty in action during the period of April 10 to May 15, 1945 when the Japanese attempted capture the airfield at Chinkiang but were defeated."

The Flying Hatchets fighter group is under the command of Col. John A. Dunning, San Antonio, Tex., and the "Lucky Lady" medium bombers are commanded by Col. T. Alan Bennett, Winter Park, Fla.
Using Ancestry, I found a couple of Stars and Stripes newspaper articles (Europe, Mediterranean, and North Africa Editions database) that seemed to also fit "my" Col. Dunning. The first was from 24 May 1952.

"20th Wing Jets Arrive in UK
LONDON, May 23 (AP) -- The first squadron of F84G Thunderjets of the U. S. Air Force 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing has arrived at Weathersfield, Essex.

The wing is part of the 49th Air Div, which also includes a wing of B45 Tornado light jet bombers.

The division is being moved to Britain from Langley AFB at Hampton, Va. The B45 will be the firts multijet bomber-type plane sent to Europe. It attains a speed of about 550 mph with its four jet engines.

Col John D. Stevenson, of Laramie, Wyo., commands the division. Col John A. Dunning, of San Antonio, commands the 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing. Col David M. Jones, of Winters, Tex., commands the 47th Light-Bomber Wing. He was a flight commander on the first Tokyo raid in 1942."

The second article is quite lengthy. It was written by Jon Hagar, Staff Writer, for the 1 January 1955 Stars and Stripes (page 11). The title was Thunderstreaks: New Firepower for NATO - Swept-wing F84Fs can carry 6,000-pound weapons load, exceed 45,000-foot altitude, smash the sonic barrier. Col. John A. Dunning was mentioned when the next units to receive these planes were described:
Among the next units to get the Thunderstreaks will be Col. John A. Dunning's 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Wethersfield. It is currently flying the Thunderjet, the plane which fought the bulk of the air war for the United Nations in Korea and was turned out at the rate of 10 a day during the height of that conflict by the same firm that is now tooled up for Thunderstreak production.
I found all of this quite interesting. Of course, the information presented here is not "proof-positive" as to whether or not it applies to "my" Col. John A. Dunning. Do I have the right man? Further investigation would be required to properly answer that. I do think, however, all the timeframes fit rather nicely with the information on the gravemarker at Magnolia Park. Take it as you see fit.

I thank Col. John A. Dunning for his service to our country.


Anonymous said...

The John A. Dunning mention in the Chinese Article was the father of my neighbor, and he was a Brigadier General and Silver Star recipient for his service in WWII. He died and is buried in San Antonio, TX. He was born in 1914 in TX and died in 1962.

Anonymous said...

You may wish to check this link for an eyewitness account of an incident that took place in China in World War Two involving Colonel John Dunning.


Anonymous said...

General John A. ("Big John" to his men, I believe)Dunning was commander of the 20th at Wethersfield RAF base in England in the early to mid 1950's. I believe he passed in 1962 following medical treatment at a hospital in the Philippines. My dad knew him in the 20th and respected him deeply.

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