Gunn, Paul Irwin, Col

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
AAF MOS 1051-Pilot - Two-Engine
Last AFSC Group
Pilot (Officer)
Primary Unit
1942-1945, AAF MOS 1051, 5th Air Force
Service Years
1917 - 1946
USAAFOfficer Collar Insignia

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by TSgt Samuel McGowan, Jr. (Sam) to remember Gunn, Paul Irwin, Col.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Quitman, Arkansas
Last Address
Manila, Philippines

Date of Passing
Oct 11, 1957
Location of Interment
Barrancas National Cemetery - Pensacola, Florida
Wall/Plot Coordinates

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Owner, Air Taxi Company in Manila
Other Comments:
Col. Paul I. "Pappy" Gunn was one of the true characters and heros of World War II. When the war broke out, he was a retired US Navy enlisted pilot living in Manila, along with his wife and four children. Immediately after Pearl Harbor and the attack on Clark Field, he was inducted into the Army with the rank of captain and placed in command of an air transport squadron consisting of his own airplanes and others that had been confiscated by the military. For the first few weeks of the war he flew cargo and passenger missions all over the Philippines in his Beech 18. Just before Christmas he was ordered to fly a load of Far East Air Force staff officers to Australia and when he arrived, he was ordered to remain. Frustrated that his family was still in the Philippines and in Japanese hands, he began a one-man war to liberate them. He flew missions from Australia to Mindanao and on to Bataan. He reportedly flew fighters with the Royal Australian Air Force during the defense of Rabaul and was shot down and spent two weeks walking out of the jungle. When he returned to Australia, he was put in command of all air transport aircraft in Australia in the 21st Air Transport Squadron, which was later designated as "troop carrier." In March 1942 literally stole enough B-25s that had been consigned to the Dutch to equip a squadron of the 3rd Attack Group, which had arrived in Australia without airplanes. He was transferred to the 3rd Attack to lead the Royce Mission of ten B-25s and three B-17s from Mindanao and reportedly sank a Japanese freighter using the new technique of skip-bombing. 

A mechanical genius, he modified the 3rd Attack Group's Douglas A-20 Boston bombers by packing the noses full of surplus .50-caliber machineguns. He was working on the project when Lt. General George Kenney arrived in Australia to take command of US air operations in the Southwest Pacific. Recognizing genius, Kenney immediately transferred Gunn, now a major, to his staff and put him in charge of special projects. The A-20s proved so successful that Kenney gave Gunn permission to convert a squadron of B-25s. In March 1943, the modified A-20s and B-25s literally won the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in what historian Samuel Eliot Morrison described as "the most destructive attack on ships by air" (except for Pearl Harbor. He was an inspiration fo the young airmen in Fifth Air Force and kept them entertained with his tales. 

For the invasion of the Philippines, Kenney put Gunn, now a Lt. Col, in charge of a special battalion of airplane mechanics and engineers who went in with the invasion fleet. It is believed that Gunn went in ahead of the invasion from a submarine and organized Filipino guerrillas. He was put out of action when a piece of white phosphorous from a Japanese bomb imbedded itself in his arm. He was air-evaced to Australia, where he remained in a hospital until the end of the war. When Allied troops landed on Luzon, General MacArthur dispatched a special mission to free the internees at the camp where the Gunn family was held. MacArthur personally greeted the Gunns and had them flown to Australia to join their father in his personal C-54.

After the war Colonel Gunn returned to the Philippines and after the Philippines Air Lines was nationalized, he started his own air taxi company with the US government as his biggest customer. He and his pilots flew guns and other cargo all over the Southwest Pacific supporting US interests, including the overthrow of the Dutch in Indonesia. After the communist victory in China, he flew Nationalists to Formosa and later flew non-communist Vietnamese to Saigon from Hanoi. He died in 1959 when his Beech 18 apparently flew into a mircoburst and was forced into the water. Although he recovered from the strike with the water, he lost his life when the airplane struck a mango tree and flew into the ground. 

Col. Paul I "Pappy" Gunn will be inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in November.
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Command Pilot Badge

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
US Navy (USN)21st Troop Carrier Squadron3rd Bombardment Group, Dive5th Air Force
  1917-1937, US Navy (USN)
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 1051, 21st Troop Carrier Squadron
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 1051, 3rd Bombardment Group, Dive
  1942-1945, AAF MOS 1051, 5th Air Force
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1942 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Philippine Islands Campaign (1941-42)
  1941-1945 World War II
  1942-1942 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater
  1943-1943 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/New Guinea Campaign (1943-44)
  1943-1943 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)
  1944-1944 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Air Offensive Campaign Japan (1942-45)
  1944-1944 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater
 My Aircraft/Missiles
C-45 Expeditor  B-17 Flying Fortress  P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk  A-20 Havoc  
B-25 Mitchell  
  1941-1942, C-45 Expeditor
  1942-1942, B-17 Flying Fortress
  1942-1942, P-40 Warhawk/Kittyhawk
  1942-1943, A-20 Havoc
  1942-1944, B-25 Mitchell
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