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March 12, 2004
by Naomi Cazier

Picture above are decorated veterans of many hard campaigns, now “dodging artillery shells” on Okinawa, these three husky brothers are from left to right, S/Sgt. Marvin Dunham, Sgt. Hal Dunham, and T/Sgt. Mervel Dunham.
The anxiously awaited news that her three grandsons on Okinawa were safe and well, was received Tuesday by Mrs. Rose Ruff of Robinson Street. The message of assurance was carried in a letter signed by all three. “We are feeling fine,” they wrote, “but dodging artillery shells is hard on the nerves.” Each of the men wears a Purple Heart. Mervel and Marvin, twins, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious conduct and gallantry during the Leyte campaign. (Mervel has received a second Bronze Star but no details of the award have been learned.)

Mervel’s citation tells how “with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he voluntarily stood up and covered the withdrawal of his comrades, four of whom had been wounded, under heavy enemy fire that had been brought to bear on a motor patrol advancing into enemy territory.” He had volunteered to act as point commander of the patrol. The patrol was forced to withdraw but Dunham remained in the area until assured that all men had been evacuated. “His actions enabled the patrol to withdraw without suffering further casualties.” The citation accompanying the award of the Bronze Star to Marvin, read in part as follows:

“When a light machine gun section, of which S/Sgt. Dunham was in charge gave support to two platoons of an infantry rifle-company, an enemy counter attack with great intensity caused the platoons to withdraw. In spite of the heavy enemy fire and with utter disregard for his own personal safety, Dunham maintained his position and continued to direct the fire of the machine guns in his section until all ammunition was expended, enabling the platoons to re-organize and disrupt the attack of the enemy offenders.”
The men are the sons of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Dunham of Sacramento. They have been in the service together for four years. They were all wounded on the same day on Leyte. They had arrived at Leyte after a rest period in Hawaii following their division’s assault and capture of Kwajalein. Their awards were received for service on what was called Shoestring Ridge, where they participated in the hardest and bloodiest of any of their campaigns.

In one letter the three told of making a trade for a chicken and cooking the bird in a helmet inverted and placed on sticks like a tripod. Hungry from living on rations, each had a piece of chicken in his hand ready to do justice to the treat, when an alert sounded. They grabbed their guns but the didn’t drop the chicken. It went with them while they ran for their battle stations. Of Okinawa, the three write that it is a beautiful island, most of it under cultivation. They say there are some horses, pigs, goats and chickens there, but the chickens are getting fewer all the time with the Dunham boys on the island. A few days ago, one of the men whose life Mervel had saved in Leyte, arrived in Sacramento on a 45-day leave. One of the first things he did was look up Mervel’s parents to tell them about their sons. The brothers recently celebrated their birthdays, in foxholes in Okinawa. Hal was 23, April 9. The twins were 22 on April 12.

Stu’s Notes: I don’t know any more about the Dunham Brothers. Did they ever live in Oroville? I do know they’re Heroes in my book, and that’s good enough. Debbie is starting to pack up in Iraq. She says the dates to leave keep changing. She hopes they leave soon as their replacements are already in Kuwait. I am ready for her to be home.