Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Russell "Eddie" Dunham, 1920-2009. R.I.P.

You might not know his name.

Russell Dunham was a Technical Sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, 30th Infantry during WWII.

Russell Dunham was an American hero.

Yesterday, he died of heart failure. He was 89.

In 1945, Dunham was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicious bravery against German machine gunners in Kayserberg, France in the heart of the Alsace-Lorraine region on the French-German border.

Dunham's Medal of Honor citation states:

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.

What is even more amazing is that Dunham would return to the battle lines only weeks after sustaining his injuries. At which time, he and most of his unit were captured. But Dunham managed to escape by killing a German guard with a gun he hid and he walked back to Allied lines for three days in subfreezing temperatures.

If I had to share a foxhole with someone it would be Russell Dunham.

Of course, our military still has Russell Dunhams within it. Our soldiers are just as brave and gallant. The only difference now is their bravery and gallantry is paid lip service but isn't celebrated.

Our soldiers are only an Abu Ghraib or a Haditha away from being villified.

Our President is too busy calling America arrogant.

Our media is too focused in displaying the flag when it is draped over the caskets of American soldiers rather than displaying it in triumph.

America and our world is a better place because we had men like Russell Dunham in it.

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