Pete Dunbar spent 10 years serving in the state legislature, and then worked for Governor Bob Martinez. His successful legal and lobbying office overlooks the state capitol. His father, Carl, was a pilot in World War II, but like many of the era, Carl didn’t share his war stories with his children.
“When it was over, they celebrated briefly. They took the values and the training that they had gotten during these difficult times, moved on with their lives, and never spoke about them,” said Pete Dunbar.
Twenty years after his father’s death, Pete was handed a shopping bag containing 79 letters. They had been written by his father from bases in Florida and the South Pacific.
“I’ve come to know fox holes fairly well these days.”
After seven years of research, Dunbar has published Before They Were Black Sheep. It’s a story of his father’s military service.
“It wasn’t until we heard the swish of dropping bombs the other night that we ducked into the shelter. Well, it was a long time coming, and sometimes I wondered if I would ever get into the scrap, but this is it.”
The letters contained no mention of where they were written.
“Unhappily, my first shots to be fired at the enemy reflected a bit of pre-game nervousness. I was pumping six guns into the aftertail of a zero which had made a pass at my division leader, and zoomed on, between, by, and out in front of us.”
But negatives from photos taken by his father, his flight log, and tracking down the only two living pilots from the squadron fill in the blanks.
“The whole thing came alive for the first time, stories that I just never knew,” says Pete Dunbar.
It was these pilots who spearheaded the US efforts to put Japan on the defensive in the South Pacific.
“We learn from our history, it helps us appreciate what we have and how hard our mothers, fathers, grandparents fought to keep what we have today.”
While Carl Dunbar died prematurely, his combat story lives on through his letters home and through the eyes of his son.
The book was published by the University Press of Florida is available on line and in bookstores.