Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
John C. Dunbar
P-38 Pilot, 39th Fighter Squadron

In memory Raymond Halloran passed away December 30, 2013

John Dunbar was born on July 25, 1919 to parents John A. Dunbar and Gertrude (Holden) Dunbar in Braddock, Pennsylvania. In June '41, graduated from Univ of Pittsburgh with BS in Aeronautical Engineering, while at Pittsburgh, he completed Primary and Advanced CPT flight schools.

Wartime History
On September 30, 1941 Dunbar enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as an aviation cadet with serial number 13039053. In April 1942, he graduated in class 42D at Kelly Field and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Assigned P-38 training at Paine Field in a P-38 Pursuit Group patrolling the northwest coast. In September 1942 flown to Brisbane via C-47 to join 39th Fighter Squadron. He arrived at Port Moresby as one of about 26 newly assigned P-38 pilots with the 39th Fighter Squadron in September.

P-38F "Dumbo!" 42-12847 Nose Number 37
Assigned to P-38F "Dumbo!" 42-12847 #37, with crew chief Ray Chartrey (now deceased). Flew a number of his 151 missions in this aircraft. All the 39th pilots gave him the nickname of 'Dumbo', which he named his plane.

The nose art was a pink baby elephant with wings, about 3 or 4 feet high, which Dunbar painted himself as an enlargement of the Disney character " Dumbo", the flying elephant. He drew dust puffs and nuts and bolts trailing his path and a big "DUMBO!" call in front. Dunbar had experience drawing enlargements of comic page shadow drawings like "Prince Valiant".

On September 2, 1943 on his off-duty flying day, his diary notes that the plane crashed at Terapo with one of our newly assigned pilots, Hamilton Laing. Landed with propeller out and low on gas. With the help of natives he returned unharmed to base at 14 Mile Drome (Schwimmer). Dunbar was assigned another P-38, #37 and continued missions. On Nov 7, 1943, another new pilot, Al Quinones, was assigned to fly his aircraft P-38H 42-66911 on a mission over Rabaul mission (his 7th mission) as Dunbar departed for leave to Sydney. That mission, Quinones was shot down from the middle of the formation, bailed out and became a Prisoner Of War (POW) at Rabaul and survived captivity.

Remainder of the War
After 151 combat missions rotated home Jan '44.  Received Electronic Officer rating (MOS 0141) in radar course at Boca Raton FL, flew P-61. Then assigned to Wright Field as project/engineer pilot, on to MIT to earn MS degree in aeronautical engineering in June '45. Returned to Wright Field. Married Sept '46, 7 children, 21 grandchildren.

Between October 1946 to 1951 Dunbar was an engineer and test pilot for American Airlines and Pan American Airlines flying DC-4 and L-49. He remained in the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and served 21 months during the Korean War, Group Maintenance officer for a C-46 Wing, then a project test pilot at the Air Force Armament Center at Eglin Field.

Next, Dunbar worked 31 years at MIT Draper Labs as an engineer and test pilot. He flew the F6F, B-26, F-94, JD-1, B-29, C-97, CH-46, CH-47. Work entailed development of inertial guidance systems, flight control, navigation systems, weapons aiming (air to air gunnery), dive bombing and advanced flight controls for CH-46, and CH-47 (Chinook) military aircraft. Phased into development of space guidance and control for Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz and Space Shuttle.  Helped train Apollo astronauts in simulators of Command Module and LEM.

Wreckage of "Dumbo!"
In October 1980, Bruce Hoy (former PNG Museum modern history curator) revealed to him that the wreckage of P-38F "Dumbo!" 42-12847 #37 force landed at Terapo Airfield remained in situ. Hoy gave Dunbar a color picture of the wreckage. Hoy made a business trip to USA soon after and visited Dunbar's home to give him a souvenir from the plane, one of the machine gun blast tubes. He has it displayed in his office with other mementos.

Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement Click For Enlargement

Dunbar passed away at age 94 on December 30, 2013. He is buried at Grove Hill Cemetery at section C, lot 23, grave 1 in Waltham, MA.

NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John C. Dunbar

FindAGrave - Maj John C. Dunbar (obituary, photos)

Contribute Information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram