In the summer of ’42, Pappy Gunn flew up to Port Moresby in one of the light attack bombers he’d modified. While there, he made several bombing and strafing runs against Japanese troops advancing on Moresby through the Owen Stanley Mountain Range’s treacherous Kokoda Trail. In one of those attacks, he was wounded, and his pet lizard Sam was killed by anti-aircraft shrapnel.
Back at Moresby, Pappy endured several Japanese bombing raids. During one of those attacks, the Japanese planes destroyed Pappy’s living quarters–just a tent with a dirt floor– and blast to pieces several of the 3rd Attack Group’s precious B-25 Mitchell bombers.
The loss of those planes was critical, but Pappy suffered an equally serious personal loss that day. Inside his tent was a satchel full of receipts. He’d been using his own money to hire Aussie contractors and machine shops to build the parts he needed to modify the 3rd Attack Group’s aircraft. He intended to get the U.S. government to reimburse him later once the chaotic command and logistical situation in Australia was straightened out.
No luck. The Japanese bombs destroyed more than ten thousand dollars worth of receipts. Pappy was never repaid. In today’s dollars, Pappy contributed at least $155,000 to the creation of the first strafer gunships.
He flew back to Australia dispirited, wounded, lizardless and out enough cash to buy a good sized house.
For more Pappy stories….