photo: family archives

hundred kilometers. Immediately after

the landing he started to build a runway

with his construction crew on a sandy perimeter. The heavy equipment has

not arrived yet, but Pappy discovered an

old bulldozer behind the Japanese lines.

At the beginning it would not start but

Pappy talked it into that and so the construction crew could start leveling the

surface and reinforce it with piled up

corral. Gunn’s group also repaired several shelters located nearby and started to

build a control tower.

In the anticipation of Japanese bombing,

they also dug a lot of trenches in the airfield vicinity. Strafing and bombing materialized soon, in addition the peninsula was only 300 meters wide and there

was not enough space. Chaos occurred,

disembarked material was nowhere to

be placed. This was followed by a heroic

effort to build the wider beachhead and

put the Tacloban base to the operation in

which no other was put in charge than

Pappy who managed to organize the help

of several hundred Filipinos. Skills of his

men came handy in the situation when it

turned out that in even after three years

of combat the bomb hangers on the Army

and Navy bombers were not unified and

therefore the bombs from the USAAF

supplies could not be used on the Navy

aircraft that landed. Pappy however promptly proposed the modifications of the

hangers, his men rushed to work on the

aircraft with welding machines and sheet metal cutters and soon enough several aircraft were ready for action. In six

and half days Tacloban was operational

but nevertheless, it was a dangerous

place which was constantly bombed and

strafed by the Japanese. On October 30,

during the bombing raid, Pappy was driving his Jeep in the open area and became a target of one of the attackers.

He tried to take cover behind the car but

it was not sufficient. The phosphorus

Pappy, Polly, and Dutch. Three nicknames, three exceptional people.

December 2022

photo: family archives


Family together again.

bomb explosion threw Pappy away and a

fragment penetrated his left hand. He got

up, made a couple of steps in great pain

and then, moaning, fell and passed out.

On the following day he was airlifted to

Brisbane, where the best Army hospital

was located.

The liberation

On January 9, 1945, four divisions of MacArthur‘s Sixth Army landed in Lingayen Bay on the main Philippines island

of Luzon to launch the final campaign of

liberating the island including Manila, 150

km away. The units kept advancing despite the fierce resistance until January 31

when the headquarters received the message that Japanese let 3700 prisoners,

held in Manila’s University of Santo Tomas campus, to starve in addition to several hundreds of POWs held in the old

Bilibid jail. Considering their poor physical condition after three years of surviving on minimal food rations it was not

clear how much longer they can carry on.

Therefore, MacArthur dispatched the 1st

Motorized Cavalry Division to march on

Manila as soon as possible and liberate

the prisoners. Under the command of General Major Vern Mudge the division, after

several isolated battles, broke through to

Manila where it swiftly attacked University of Santo Tomas area and rescued all

prisoners. Among them Polly Gunn with

her four children. Col. Hutchinson sought

them out as he had promised Pappy befo-

re his dispatch to Australia that he would

take care of them. He told Polly about

Pappy’s wounds and that their transport

to Brisbane was being arranged so they

could re-unite. It was the first information Polly received that her husband was

directly involved in the fighting. She was

in rather poor condition; her weight was

38 kilos instead of usual 51. On February 19 she was flown with her children to

Brisbane where the whole family reunited after more than three years.

The war wounds

Pappy’s wounds were more serious that

it could have seemed. The whole hand

nervous system was damaged. The joints

were swollen and fingers insensitive.

Therefore, in the middle of April he was

transferred to the USA to undertake neurosurgery at the military clinic in Auburn.

This partially helped but Pappy continued

to suffer from severe pain and had to carry his half-disabled hand in the support.

However, the inactivity was even worse

for him so in September 1945 he returned

to Manila and initiated the resurrection

for the Philippine Air Lines.

At that time, he was already discharged

to reserve and could fully return to his

civilian life.

Together with Dan Stickle, with whom he

had started at the airline, they acquired

a couple of surplus Army airplanes which

they rebuilt for civilian use. In December

the ceremonial re-opening of the opera-

INFO Eduard