b. 19/10/1920 Abingdon, Illinois. d. 24/03/2000 Illinois.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 20/21/05/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.
Dunlap was born on Oct. 19, 1920, to William and Leona Dunlap. He had a younger brother named Harold, and they grew up in Abingdon, Illinois.
Dunlap was an active teen who played football and basketball and did track during high school. After graduation in 1938, he went to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, where he majored in economics and business administration. Dunlap continued to do track and play football while there. In fact, according to Jeff Ranklin, a historian at Monmouth College, he had been offered a contract by the Philadelphia Eagles, but World War II got in the way.
On March 5, 1942, Dunlap joined the Marine Corps Reserve, but he wasn’t called to active duty until he graduated from Monmouth in May 1942. After attending candidate’s class, he received his commission on July 18, 1942, then went to parachute training school in San Diego. He was assigned to the 3rd Parachute Battalion in December 1942.
The unit was eventually sent to the Pacific. By December 1943, Dunlap was the leader of a platoon that was pinned down by heavy Japanese fire on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. Despite Dunlap’s shy and quiet nature, his commanding officers said he exposed himself to the heavy fire and rallied his men to regain lost ground. For his leadership and courage, he was awarded a letter of commendation from famed Navy Adm. William Halsey.
Dunlap returned to the U.S. in March 1944 to join the newly formed 5th Marine Division, only to be deployed to the Pacific again that summer. On Oct. 2, 1944, Dunlap was promoted to captain and took charge of Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.
By February 1945, U.S. forces had slowly maneuvered their way closer to a full-scale invasion of the Japanese mainland. Before they could do that, though, they needed to capture the tiny island of Iwo Jima, which could put U.S. bombers in striking distance of Japan. Marines and some naval forces began landing on the island on Feb. 19, 1945. Dunlap’s unit was in one of the first waves.
On Feb. 20, Dunlap led his troops from low ground toward the island’s steep cliffs. The Japanese, who were entrenched in underground tunnels and caves, pounded them with artillery, mortars, rifles and machine guns.
Company C steadily inched forward until the onslaught was too great to continue, but Dunlap refused to have his progress halted. He pushed ahead of his men, crawling about 200 yards until he made it to the base of a cliff about 50 yards from the Japanese lines. From there he was able to locate the enemy’s gun positions. He then crawled back to his unit and passed that vital information on to supporting artillery and naval gunfire units.
Dunlap spent the next two days and nights working without sleep to direct supporting fire upon the enemy, often putting himself in harm’s way to do so. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he “skillfully directed a smashing bombardment against the almost impregnable Japanese positions despite numerous obstacles and heavy Marine casualties.”
Dunlap’s leadership inspired his men during a critical phase of the battle. His efforts slowed the Japanese defense enough for Marines to eventually move forward and take Mount Suribachi, where the iconic photo of Marines raising the U.S. flag was taken on Feb. 23, 1945.
On Feb. 26, as fighting continued, Dunlap was wounded in the left hip. He was evacuated to Guam and then the U.S., where he spent several months in and out of hospitals. For much of that recovery, Dunlap was in a full body cast.
Meanwhile, after five intense weeks of fighting, U.S. troops finally declared Iwo Jima secured on March 26. But the win came at a huge price. The Marines suffered more than 25,000 casualties, including nearly 7,000 dead. Of the nearly 300 men Dunlap led onto Iwo Jima, fewer than half survived the first four days of fighting, Rankin said.
On Dec. 18, 1945, Dunlap and five other service members attended a White House ceremony to receive the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman. In total, Dunlap and 26 other men earned the medal for their actions at Iwo Jima — more than any other battle in U.S. history.
Just a few days before receiving his medal, Dunlap married his college sweetheart, Mary Louise Frantz. They went on to have two children.
Dunlap’s daughter, Donna Butler, told the Galesburg Register-Mail newspaper in 2014 that after the war, her dad spent about 18 years as a farmer back in Abingdon before becoming a schoolteacher. He continued his work as an educator until he retired in 1982.
Dunlap died on March 24, 2000, in Monmouth, Illinois, at age 79. He was buried in the town’s Warren County Memorial Park.
Dunlap was a member of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution along with his cousin, Navy Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale. Stockdale, who grew up in Abingdon alongside Dunlap, also earned a Medal of Honor for his actions in 1969 during the Vietnam War. In 2014, a veterans memorial in Abingdon was dedicated to the two men.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company C, First Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines, Fifth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, on 20 and 21 February 1945. Defying uninterrupted blasts of Japanese artillery, mortar, rifle and machine-gun fire, Captain Dunlap led his troops in a determined advance from low ground uphill toward the steep cliffs from which the enemy poured a devastating rain of shrapnel and bullets, steadily inching forward until the tremendous volume of enemy fire from the caves located high to his front temporarily halted his progress. Determined not to yield, he crawled alone approximately 200 yards forward of his front lines, took observation at the base of the cliff 50 yards from Japanese lines, located the enemy gun position and returned to his own lines where he relayed the vital information to supporting artillery and naval gunfire units. Persistently disregarding his own personal safety, he placed himself in an exposed vantage point to direct more accurately the supporting fire and, working without respite for two days and two nights under constant enemy fire, skillfully directed a smashing bombardment against the almost impregnable Japanese positions despite numerous obstacles and heavy Marine casualties. A brilliant leader, Captain Dunlap inspired his men to heroic efforts during this critical phase of the battle and by his cool decision, indomitable fighting spirit and daring tactics in the face of fanatic opposition greatly accelerated the final decisive defeat of Japanese countermeasures in his sector and materially furthered the continued advance of his company. His great personal valor and gallant spirit of self-sacrifice throughout the bitter hostilities reflect the highest credit upon Captain Dunlap and the United States Naval Service.
BURIAL LOCATION: WARREN COUNTY MEMORIAL PARK, MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.