Bitterroot Amateur Radio

Bitterroot Amateur Radio

communicating through thick and thin

Fully Informed Jury

Fully Informed Jury

the alternative to a ruling elite

Libertarian Party

Libertarian Party

whatever floats your boat as long as it doesn't sink mine

Edwin Veghte Dunlap, USAF WWII

Edwin Veghte Dunlap is/was my father-in-law. Luckily, I was able to meet him in person a few times before he passed. He was definitely a character with an interesting story.

Ed wrote and illustrated a book about his WWII experience. I took photos of the COPY of the book that we have and then pulled those into a power point program and converted it to pdf form. I was not able to upload it here due to the size, nearly 500 megabytes. WordPress has a maximum of 128 mb uploads. I tried compressing the file but the zipped file was no smaller.

I’ll put a couple of pages (photos of them) in this post as I tell a little about his story. I had this all in an email to send, and, mistakenly, did not save the text somewhere before trying to send and, after my computer locked up, because the file was too large, causing me to have to restart my PC both times, I lost the email completely.

Well, it’s been two and a half days since I started this project and I finally scanned Ed’s log in to pdf. You can view all 166 pages when you open this link in Adobe Acrobat reader.  EVD WWII LOG. NOTE: It’s helpful to know that a click of your other mouse button in Adobe Acrobat gives you options, including “rotate clockwise”, allowing you to view pages right side up. You may have to do it again on a succeeding pages to put them back into correct viewing. Repeat as needed.

Ed went into the US Airforce. This is Propwash, his “year book” if you will, from flight school. Propwash I did not scan in the entire publication but enough that you will see what it was like and his written comments are fun to read. I scanned in a few other things that Ed kept and you can view them here: American Ex-Prisoners of War (covers with his notes only), Original Dirty Dozen and my rewrite of the second one is below, and cover only of this book. Ted’s older brother, Frank, has the original log. Hopefully, it will survive and be passed on to Ted’s son, Richard, Dunlap.

Ted has recently made a display of sorts and asked me to frame these items of his father’s. The result was this shadow box. Ted sent away for wings before he knew I knew where his father’s original wings were, and his bars. When he ordered them, and a photo of the plane his father flew, he also received this flyer of the military badges.







I heard the story many times since Ted and I married and it goes something like this. Ed’s first mission was him filling in for someone who was sick. They were shot down and his parachute didn’t fit him because it was for a smaller person, the one he was sent in place of. He had a broken leg and was quickly surrounded by peasants with pitch forks. When he asked where he was and the reply was Deutschland, he thought he’d landed in Holland and was safe. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Germany.

He wasn’t wearing his uniform hat when he left the plane and the Germans said he was out of uniform and they would execute him. A local turned up wearing Ed’s hat and there was his identification in his hat on that guy’s head!

The Germans were successful at keeping Ed imprisoned, but the British were not. The prisoners were under orders from the US, through the Brits who liberated them, to wait to be processed out of the camp. Many, including Ed, did not wait and struck off cross country on bicycles and row boats to reach the English Channel where they boarded boats for home.

I never heard Ed tell the story himself, Ed was co-pilot and here’s what happened in his own words, from the book he wrote and illustrated.

“We had started at 18,000. It wouldn’t be too long til we would crash. Things were so confused, whirling and noisy, that I really didn’t know which way to go to get out. Besides, where was my chute?! I would never have found it but during one violent lurch of the ship the chest pack came from somewhere to hit me in the chest.

I was able to snap it on and finally strained to the open bomb bay but couldn’t make it over the step into it. Just watched first the sky then the ground ever closer. Funny how calm I was. Just said to myself- too bad, this is it, and quit struggling.

Then I thought of the little wife, how fine she was, how she would feel, married such a short time to have me, her husband, die in a crash! That rest must have done it cause this time I made it. Guess the tail hit me, anyway asI bailed a big wallop did this to my leg. I figure the chute couldn’t have popped much over 1,500 feet. That’s as close to violent death as I care to come. A Few more seconds in that plane would have done it. ‘C’mon, let’s play another game of chess.'”

My favorite story is Marilyn’s. When she knew Ed was coming home she got ready every evening with curlers in her hair and putting on her best dress in the morning to meet the trains each day. When the last soldier got off the train one day and saw her there, pretty and obviously disappointed, he said, “Mam, if he’d been on that train he would have been the first one off!”

One morning, still in her old night gown and hair in curlers, a knock at her window, and there was Ed! So much for all that preparation!

Ed always said The Dirty Dozen was his story. And so, he wrote it. And it was published in a November 11, 1989 issue of a North Platte, Nebraska the Saturday Telegraph newspaper as THE ORIGINAL DIRTY DOZEN. We have a computer printout of a webpage of the story from dated 4/22/2002. The pages were printed so that words in the right hand margin were partial making it unsatisfactory for reading so I retyped it.

The Original Dirty Dozen

Stalag Luft I, Barth

by Edwin Dunlap

This excerpt could easily be expanded to fill an entire book because, to me it was the most outstanding desire of all during my year and a half as a prisoner of war, to escape!

There were various ways tried by prisoners to get beyond those double barbed wire fences; climbing them, slipping between the wires, cutting through, tunneling under, or some sort of disguise to pass the guards at the gates.

Here’s the one I know every detail about. To begin at the ending, we spent three months of work involving over eighty men ending in heartbreaking failure. Starting from barracks seven, we dug four feet below the surface, three tunnels at once. The caved in remnant closest to the guard tower with two 90 degree turns in it, was actually a success though I was captured a half minute after I had crawled out into the grass. Since I was first, no one escaped.

It was plain foolish to start a tunnel, claimed most of the men in Luft 1 who had seen, actually, over ninety tunnel attempts caved in by the Germans since the camp started in October of 1943.

I was just that foolish, that much of an egotist to think that the plan I had would beat the Germans, and it was easy to find many eager men who felt that anything that might get them home was worth a try.

The original plan based itself on the Germans knowing seismographs (which we knew were located around camp) not only when we were digging but where, and also knew many tunnels were discovered through the difficulty of dirt disposal or through carelessness of tire diggers. Originally, all these weaknesses were to be overcome by enough men and preparation that we would tunnel to the outside so rapidly that though Jerry knew we were working, we would get out because he always seemed to let the eager diggers keep busy, where they could watch them, for a few days.

The block we chose was picked because it was only a sixty foot dig to a place to come up, whereas most barracks were at least a 150 feet to dig so not a choice spot to come out.

The entrance to our job was hidden from the Germans for two months until the first of our three operating tunnels was discovered. Three complicated tunnels, a far cry from our comparatively simple original plan, was soon found necessary as we realized how slow the digging was going to be.

To form this final plan and hold to it was my responsibility, as I started it. Actually, I used to have meetings of all the workers until our numbers got too great, to hear suggestions from all; and it was through these meetings, out in the middle of an open spot where no microphones or listening Germans could hide that we reached agreements on tactics.

Against us was a camp designed, through escape attempts of the first world war prisoners, to be as near fool proof as possible. Officers were not allowed to leave on work details as they had caused too much trtouble in the past trying to escape. So we set out to beat the camp with its many guards, guns, dogs, its barbed wire fnces and its determination to keep us.

Still, on the principle that the Germans knew by seismograph we were working we hoped to fool them by digging three at once. Then, after they, typically let us keep busy for a while, we would push three jobs as far as possible, hiding two for further work when they came around with their “cave in squad.” And this is exactly what happened.

The day after the number one tunnel had been discovered, I rounded up the men who were still willing to work.. some had changed their minds about escape when they saw so many marched off, under guard, to the cooler.

Back we crawled under the barracks, only this time our method was very short periods of “quiet digging”, disturbing the ground as little as possible. We were digging in the left tunnel, as the right tunnel had been so badly exposed when the Germans caved it in that we could not easily operate the number two tunnel on the right of the lost one. However, we kept it concealed from the Germans in case the second attempt in tunnel number three failed. Also, for three months or more, not using it ever as the Allies were doing so well in their advance across France, escape did not seem wise.

It was another example of the lesson we learned; optimism did pay. We stayed ten months longer than we might have had to in this camp, as the tunnel was cleverly hidden by filling in the entrance with sand, extended almost to the fence.

You might wonder why it should take us so long, in sandy soil, to dig sixty feet. I wish there was room to write all the interesting details so you could realize the answer to this question. Sometimes the tunnel would get ahead of the air supply crew as they hammered pipe out of margarine tins.

Often there were workers, especially in the soppy tunnel, who got sick and work was held up for replacements. Actual weeks were wasted because of the suspicion of the Germans, as we valued our efforts enough to stop work completely if we thought they were giving more than their usual close attention to our activities.

They had a large crew of men working day and night doing nothing but watch for escape attempts. This crew was led by a mean, blond former New York butcher boy, a Nazi. Our chain of guards could really only warn us of approach of the crew in time for us to come out of the tunnel and fill the entrance with sand. No one was to attempt to come from under the barracks if we thought extra attention was being directed, by Henry, the butcher boy, and his henchmen to the barracks we were working under, as that might give our efforts away needlessly.

Charlie Epstein was over the guards. The only time one of the guards worked in the tunnel was when one of the usual workers became sick but not too sick to replace the guard on his position. We tried to avoid extra people knowing about our work as it would have been easy for the Germans to send a spy in our midst.

The first tunnel had not been a total loss as we had leanred much by it. I for one learned why armies insist on discipline, the importance of details and meetings to be sure everyone knew our day’s plans. We learned after using a hundred hard to obtain cartons, for passing dirt from the well’ to the disposal area, in one day that we would have to find another container.

We had been using some of our metal eating bowls in the tunnels as there was no room to pass the foot square six inch high Red Cross carton. So, though the Germans had taken some of these bowls in their first raid, we rounded up thirty five of these and used them, between times they were used for meals, in passing the wet smelling sand all the way to the disposal area.

We expected them to find the first tunnel by seismograph, and by the extra sand under the low barracks, though the sand was hidden for a couple of months thanks to the earlier tunnel done by those men that chipped the hole in the concrete wall. They had in a hurry packed their sand alongside the ‘dog runs’ in a fairly thin wall extending to the floor, ten inches above.

We merely made a four foot T, pushed this all of sand along the ground, far back where we could not reach it without the pusher and put our sand in front where the wall had been. Finishing it with dry sand made it look so much as it had before that the search squad, as they looked under the barracks every three or four night, did not find our work for those two months.

But, after the discovery of number one, and its exposed well where number two was hidden, we had to work, bending every effort to hid it, number three. Since all available room under the low floor had by this time been filled, except new areas without even a wall to hide more sand, we had to use an area saved for this emergency. To lift the barracks away would be the best way to show the dog runs, our own hidden runs where we put our dirt; our cold wet workshop for three and a half months. Lifting the barracks away would show our tunnel efforts somewhat like this:








Edwin Veghte Dunlap

B:02/10/1921 San Leandro, Alameda, California, USA

D:17/05/2012 Pleasant Hill Cemetary, Military Section, Sebastopol, Sonoma, California, USA

We had a lovely ceremony at the cemetery attended by Ted’s family, including his mother, sister Susan, son Richard and children, uncle and cousins. Ted played some tunes on his trombone.