07 April 2009

RIP: Russell Dunham

Russell E Dunham
23 Feb 1920 - 6 Apr 2009

ZUI this article from the St Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch:
Russell Dunham, a World War II veteran who won the Medal of Honor, died of heart failure in his home in Godfrey on Monday (April 6, 2009). He was 89.

Mr. Dunham won the nation's highest military honor for his bravery during a battle near Kayserberg, France, on Jan. 8, 1945.


In a 1999 interview, Mr. Dunham told the Post-Dispatch he wasn't aware of being in great danger at the time, or in other battles. "Once you get into battle, you forget your fears," Mr. Dunham said.

A member of the 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, Mr. Dunham fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France, earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and almost every other combat medal available.


Mr. Dunham was born in East Carondelet [Illinois] in 1920 and spent his youth around Fosterburg in Madison County. When he was about 16, he went to live with his older brother Ralph in St. Louis for several years. They sold soup, hot tamales and other items on the streets.

After his military service, Mr. Dunham went on to work as a benefits counselor with the VA in St. Louis for about 30 years. He got veterans signed up for benefits before they arrived home, said his stepdaughter, Annette Wilson of Godfrey.


In addition to his stepdaughter and granddaughter, among the survivors are a daughter, Mary Neal of Cobden, Ill., a stepson, David Bazzell of Louisiana; three brothers; three sisters; and several other grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Wilda Long-Bazzell.

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Technical Sergeant, US Army; Company I, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division

Born: 23 February 1920, East Carondelet, Illinois
Died: 6 April 2009, Godfrey, Illinois

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. At about 1430 hours on 8 January 1945, during an attack on Hill 616, near Kayserberg, France, T/Sgt. Dunham single-handedly assaulted 3 enemy machineguns. Wearing a white robe made of a mattress cover, carrying 12 carbine magazines and with a dozen hand grenades snagged in his belt, suspenders, and buttonholes, T/Sgt. Dunham advanced in the attack up a snow-covered hill under fire from 2 machineguns and supporting riflemen. His platoon 35 yards behind him, T/Sgt. Dunham crawled 75 yards under heavy direct fire toward the timbered emplacement shielding the left machinegun. As he jumped to his feet 10 yards from the gun and charged forward, machinegun fire tore through his camouflage robe and a rifle bullet seared a 10-inch gash across his back sending him spinning 15 yards down hill into the snow. When the indomitable sergeant sprang to his feet to renew his 1-man assault, a German egg grenade landed beside him. He kicked it aside, and as it exploded 5 yards away, shot and killed the German machinegunner and assistant gunner. His carbine empty, he jumped into the emplacement and hauled out the third member of the gun crew by the collar. Although his back wound was causing him excruciating pain and blood was seeping through his white coat, T/Sgt. Dunham proceeded 50 yards through a storm of automatic and rifle fire to attack the second machinegun. Twenty-five yards from the emplacement he hurled 2 grenades, destroying the gun and its crew; then fired down into the supporting foxholes with his carbine dispatching and dispersing the enemy riflemen. Although his coat was so thoroughly blood-soaked that he was a conspicuous target against the white landscape, T/Sgt. Dunham again advanced ahead of his platoon in an assault on enemy positions farther up the hill. Coming under machinegun fire from 65 yards to his front, while rifle grenades exploded 10 yards from his position, he hit the ground and crawled forward. At 15 yards range, he jumped to his feet, staggered a few paces toward the timbered machinegun emplacement and killed the crew with hand grenades. An enemy rifleman fired at pointblank range, but missed him. After killing the rifleman, T/Sgt. Dunham drove others from their foxholes with grenades and carbine fire. Killing 9 Germans - wounding 7 and capturing 2 - firing about 175 rounds of carbine ammunition, and expending 11 grenades, T/Sgt. Dunham, despite a painful wound, spearheaded a spectacular and successful diversionary attack.


Anonymous said...

I am Russell Dunham's grandson-in-law. Thanks very much for your nice blog post about Russell Dunham's passing. He was a wonderful person and we will miss him.

Adam Miller

bunkerman said...

I was thinking about Russ. He was my hero and my property was next to his on sunderland road. He told me hundreds of his stories over the years. He was my friend. Russ had I believe more American bravery medals than even Audie Murphy. He had two bronze stars w V device, silver star w 2 clusters (3 silver stars, the last two weren't received till 47' n 60' cause they were lost), DSC and MOH. Murphy only had 2 silver stars but he had some foreign medals and more good conducts. Russ had the croix de guerre and the foureguerre in the croix de guerre colors. He was on a name basis with Patton. He liked Murphy and said he was just a quiet guy n a good song writer. Russ' used to like to have a drink with Commando Kelly and he and Murphy felt that the bravest of the brave was Desmond Doss so that in 61' the MOH men selected Doss as their representative to the President. As an aside Russ' brother Roy Dunham matched him medal for medal except for the MOH. He was cited for it and got a lesser medal. Roy I believe had a number of silver stars, bronze stars, 5 purple hearts, DSC, croix de guerre and foreaguerre. There were actually 4 machine gun nests and Russ told me as I took the 3d one there rushing by me was Roy and he charged and nailed the 4th nest. Sadly Roy never got over not receiving the MOH and for the rest of his life people would ask him what it felt like to be the brother of a war hero. Russ always told me if you have to walk down a dark alley its Roy you want with you. Its written in the history of the 3d division that Patton was ordered to take a town in 24 hours and he wired back, "I took it yesterday". He then asked his staff how did we get that town and the reply was "The Dunham Boys were out raising hell again." Sorry to be so wordy but I thought you might be interested.

Anonymous said...

Great story bunkerman. My only complaint is that the article says he won the Medal of Honor. You don't win the M.O.H. you earn it and I think his action throughout the war prove that.

Hope said...

@bunkerman. I wish someone would write more online about him! I am working on a presentation and have spent a while digging around and finding new tid bits of how awesome him and his brother were. I wish i could get it in a consolidated place!

Mike Schultz said...

I am doing research on 40 recipients of the MOH who were also members of the CCC. Would like to chat with anyone re Russell Dunham. My profile of him is about 6,000 words. My email is cccfdr1@gmail.com

Noel Odnoralov said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

He was amazing and i'm proud of what he did he was really brave.