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I have wanted to write you for some time now but just put it off like I did finishing the book about Pappy. I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed reading about all the things he did and and how important to the war effort they were. I put the book down when I got near the end because I didn't want to face the reality that he was no longer with us. Its like wanting to turn back the clock and then stop it. I am personally convinced that if it wasn't for his invention of the strafer version of the B-25, we may not have succeded in the SWPA! Conventional weponary at the time just wasn't there. The only other enhancement at the time was the P-38 Lightning. Your dad was a God Send to us all. Your Mother was also a strong and brave lady. As much so as anyone I know of.

How is your overall family doing now?

Thanks for your gift to Pappy's memory,

Clyde W. Heiman

* * * * *

Times Record Online Edition
Fort Smith, Arkansas

Monday, November 15, 2004

'Pappy Gunn' Tale Of Hero

By Tina Dale

Throughout history fathers have been regarded heroes by many daughters and sons — their acts of bravery and strength fondly remembered for years.

Things are not much different for Nathaniel Gunn. Well, except Gunn’s father, Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn, will forever be remembered as one of the great heroes of World War II.

Of course, were it not for Gunn’s recently released book “Pappy Gunn,” the world might never have realized what a hero the elder Gunn really was.

Gunn’s book recounts in great detail his dad’s war exploits and the markings he made on history. He tells of his father’s amazing acts of daring and ingenuity — many of which have been attributed to others over the years.

Gunn takes the time to backup most accounts with some type of documentation — letters, personal diary entries, reports, military memos, letters and the like.

While the inclusion of the many, many (about 200) documents makes the book a little hard to wade through, they are incredibly important. Without this “proof,” the stories told would be hard to believe. Hollywood couldn’t create a more colorful and sympathetic hero than the native of Quitman who became one of America’s bravest pilots and most clever engineers working in the Pacific theater during World War II.

“No other single man below the rank of general did as much to defeat the Japanese as did Paul Irvin Gunn,” states Walter Edmund, historian and author, on press materials for the book.

While Pappy’s story is interesting and entertaining from the beginning, it is the tales of war that are the most captivating. We get to know an impassioned man determined to help his country and save his family. (Pappy’s wife and children, including Nathaniel Gunn, were held in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines for three years during the war.)

At age 42, Pappy was working as manager and chief pilot of Philippine Air Lines. At the outbreak of World War II he had to abandon his wife and four children to help the Army. Gunn’s account tells of Pappy’s many acts of bravery, including when he defied orders and attempted an unsuccessful but bold rescue, landing a plane on a street in the heart of Japanese-held Manila in the hope of a midnight rendezvous to pick up his family.

The book recounts many other real deeds that show Pappy was determined to bring down Japanese forces however he could.

The book also tells of the Gunn’s life in the internment camp and the toll it took on the family, who concocted a story of Pappy’s death to aid their survival. (Pappy’s wife, Clara, convinced Japanese captors that Pappy had been killed during the invasion.)

I would have liked more from the Gunn’s time in captivity, but as this book is about Pappy, I guess that will have to wait for another time.

Gunn had enough to accomplish in this book — giving rightful credit for deeds accomplished by his father, such as transforming the B-25 bomber and innovation of low-level “skip bombing” against Japanese shipping. (According to Gunn, Pappy did not take credit for many missions out of fear for his families life and treatment they would receive if the Japanese learned of his part in the war.) And he had to do this while making the main character someone we all want to know.

I think Pappy’s outgoing personality helped there. After reading the first few pages, it’s hard not to want to know more about this impulsive, innovative and stubborn man.

Gunn said he wrote the book because many World War II veterans asked him to tell the world about Pappy Gunn.

We are very fortunate they asked and Gunn delivered. Our veterans will not be around forever, their tales of heroism should be — whether on print or film.

Gunn said he has been approached by Hollywood about a movie on the book.

I hope it happens. I hope someday soon, I’m sitting in a theater watching Pappy Gunn best the Japanese and reunite with his family.

In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied with Gunn’s 457-page book and the images it provokes.