Dunbar Book

By: Troy Kinsey Email
By: Troy Kinsey Email

Tallahassee, FL--

As we remember those who have fought and died for our country, we bring you two journeys. One that began nearly 70 years ago, when a young man named Carl Dunbar set off to fight for America in the skies above the South Pacific. And the other...that of his son, former Tampa Bay Legislator Pete Dunbar, who only recently began to re-trace his dad's extraordinary service.

It was a war unrivaled in the history of the world. A global confrontation, pitting liberty against fascism, and when America entered World War II in late 19-41, Pete Dunbar's father, Carl, didn't think twice about donning America's uniform.

He started two weeks after Pearl Harbor, and when he finally arrived in the Solomon Islands, it was about 14 months after he had begun his journey. A journey that for Carl and millions of young men began with a call of duty that echoed across America.

They stopped what they were doing when they heard there's trouble brewing and they heard the war's on. Carl was only 21, not even a year out of Yale, but by the time he'd arrived on Guadalcanal to take on the Japanese, he was a fighter pilot assigned to V-M-F 2-1-4, a marine unit that later became known as 'The Black Sheep'.

He always found the Robert Conrad television show, 'Baa Baa Black Sheep,' to be of great interest, and he didn't watch much TV, but that one, it always caught him.

Why the heroics of Conrad and his band of high-flying brothers so captivated Carl, his son Pete never knew. That's because Pete had no idea what exactly his dad did during the war.

"The irony, Troy, is he never talked about it...but he wrote about it...In dozens of letters home over the course of two years," he said.

It's not just one man's history, but the front line history of one of America's finest hours. And, unbelievably, it sat boxed up for nearly six decades, unknown to even Pete, making its discovery that much more profound.

He said, "I was sitting in my mother's apartment one day, or condominium, one day, and she said, 'you would probably like your father's letters'. And, I just looked at her and I said, 'what are you talking about?'"

For Pete, it was a revelation. The story his father had left behind in the South Pacific, retold in his own words twenty years after his death. Today they fill an entire new book - 'Before They Were the Black Sheep' written by Carl, edited by Pete.

"So, when he writes about the 'alumni weeklies,' are these some of those?"
"Yeah, these are some of that," he said.

Now you can find Carl's original letters here, at the Florida State Institute on World War II and the Human Experience. Its director Kurt Piehler says they may be most notable for what they don't let on.

Even when he's on Guadalcanal, which was pretty horrendous conditions, he's remarkably upbeat, I mean, he's grumbling a little, but he's really not sharing with him how precarious the American position was.

Carl wasn't alone.

These pilots that flew so heroically were almost making it up as they went along.

Their contribution made them one of the most elite flying units ever. And yet, whether because of humility, grief or pain many of V-M-F 2-1-4's surviving members are only opening up now about their unquestionable heroism.

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