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Maj Robert H Dunlap


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Medal of Honor Citation

Robert Hugo Dunlap, who earned the Medal of Honor during the World War II battle for Iwo Jima, was born in Abingdon, Illinois, on 19 October 1920. He went to school in Abingdon and graduated from high school there in 1938. While in high school he was active in football, basketball and was a member of the track team. He also took part in the class plays.

He went on to Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, where he was a prominent football player and trackman. Treasurer of the student body in his senior year, he majored in Economics and Business Administration and minored in Mathematics. He graduated in May 1942 with a degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Five feet six inches tall, weighing 148 pounds, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 5 March 1942 while still a student at Monmouth. He was 19 years of age. He was promoted to private first class at that time and was placed on the inactive list with the Platoon Leaders' Unit of the 9th Reserve District until his graduation. Called to active duty in May 1942, he was transferred to the Officer Candidates Class at Quantico, Virginia. He was discharged as an enlisted man on 17 July and commissioned a second lieutenant the following day.

Following Reserve Officers Class at Quantico, 2dLt Dunlap requested parachute training and was ordered to the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, San Diego, California. He was designated a Parachutist on 23 November and the next month was assigned to the 3d Parachute Battalion. Advanced to first lieutenant in April 1943, he took part in the invasions of Vella LaVella and Bougainville in the Solomon Islands during the latter part of 1943.

During the Bougainville campaign, 1stLt Dunlap, while attached to the 1st Parachute Regiment, was awarded a Letter of Commendation from Admiral William F. Halsey. On 9 December 1943, his platoon was pinned down by heavy Japanese machine gun fire. As platoon leader, he exposed himself to the heavy fire and was able to rally his depleted platoon and maneuver it into position and reoccupy the lost ground. His commanding officer said of him at that time, "Apparently a very quiet, retiring personality, this officer demonstrated outstanding qualities of battlefield leadership. Skillful, courageous, and tenacious in adversity."

First Lieutenant Dunlap returned to the United States in March 1944 to join the 5th Marine Division then being formed at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California. The veteran officer became a machine gun platoon leader in Company G, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines.

He departed for overseas duty for the second time in the summer of 1944, and on 2 October 1944, was promoted to captain. With his new rank he became Commanding Officer, Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, in which capacity he was serving when he earned the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima.

As Commanding Officer, Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during the Iwo Jima campaign, Capt Dunlap led his company through a hail of artillery, mortar, rifle and machine gun fire in a determined advance from low ground uphill toward the steep cliffs from where the enemy poured a devastating rain of bullets and shrapnel. It was the day following the original landing on 19 February 1945.

When finally the volume of enemy fire became too intense to advance any further toward the caves located high to the front, Capt Dunlap held up his company and crawled alone approximately 200 yards forward of his front lines, while his men watched in fear and admiration.

From this position at the base of the cliff, about 50 yards from the Japanese lines, the captain spotted the enemy gun positions, and, returning to his own lines, relayed the vital information to the supporting artillery and naval gunfire units. Persistently disregarding his own safety, he then placed himself in an exposed vantage point to direct a more accurate supporting fire.

Captain Dunlap worked without respite for two days and two nights under constant enemy fire, skillfully directing a smashing bombardment against the almost impregnable enemy positions. During this critical phase of the battle, his company suffered heavy casualties, but by his inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit Capt Dunlap spurred his men on to heroic efforts which resulted in the final decisive defeat of Japanese countermeasures in that sector.

On 26 February 1945, Capt Dunlap was felled by a bullet wound in the left hip. He was evacuated from Iwo Jima and subsequently was a patient at the U.S. Naval Hospitals at Guam, Pearl Harbor, San Francisco, and Great Lakes, Illinois.

The Medal of Honor was awarded by President Harry S. Truman to Capt Dunlap in ceremonies at the White House on 18 December 1945. Later, after nearly 14 months of hospitalization, Capt Dunlap was discharged from the Great Lakes Naval Hospital on 20 April 1946. He went on inactive duty in September 1946 and was retired with the rank of major on 1 December 1946.

Major Dunlap passed away on 24 March 2000 at the age of 79. He was laid to rest in Warren County Memorial Park in Monmouth, Illinois.

In addition to the Medal of Honor and Letter of Commendation with Ribbon, Maj Dunlap held the Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation with one star, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.