Robert Wayne Dunn

Lance Corporal
MORTAR BTRY, 1ST BN, 11TH MARINES, 1ST MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
07 July 1946 - 12 September 1968
Clifton, Texas
Panel 44W Line 036

1ST MARDIV

11TH MARINES
National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Robert Wayne Dunn

29 Jun 2002

Losing you was not only a great loss for America but for your family as well. Knowing that everyone will be together again eases the pain a little but can never take it away completely. You are missed and thought of daily.

From a second cousin,
Brandon
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22 Aug 2004

Years ago I read a LIFE magazine interview of Robert Dunn after his entire family was lost to Hurricane Carla in September 1961. All these years later, I recalled the article and wondered whatever happened to Robert. I discovered he was a casualty in Vietnam in 1968.

Still remembering the sacrifice
you made so far away
and so many years ago.

Robert, you can stand tall,
knowing that your lost family
would have been very proud of you
as are we all.

Roger Steven Holley
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29 Aug 2005

The hurricane stole Robert's family from him, and he was by himself for a few years, he had no one. But I'm sure that deep in his heart Robert knew his family was watching over him and felt them in his heart. When Robert was sent to Vietnam and lost his life ... in all reality ... his family came to rescue him from the calm before the storm taking him to be with them. You will always be remembered, Robert.

From
Diana Lopez
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18 Feb 2006

My brothers and I played with all the Dunn children when we were children ourselves. They lived 'around the corner' from us. It has made me sad and happy at the same time to see this memorial to him.

After he lost his family, he himself was lost, not knowing exactly who he was and what to do next. Oh, he knew his name and he could tell you everything that had happened to him and his family, but just imagine such a tradgedy occuring in your own life. What a deep sadness to have to climb out of.

Vietnam is a scar on the hearts of Americans who lived through it by being there and just being alive during those years. Our country lost so many young men, but I think the most tragic was the loss of Robert's life.

He was a friend and Hurricane Carla has put a bond between him and our family. When I go to visit my parent's resting place in Angleton, I usually visit his and his family also. It's good to remember. It brings us back to reality and gives life value.

From a childhood friend,
Mary E. (Andrews) Watts
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11 Jul 2006

Robert Dunn was my friend.

My first picture of Robert was on the cover of Life Magazine in 1961 before I moved to Angleton. In 1962 when my dad, who was a Methodist minister, was transferred to Angleton, Robert Dunn became a classmate of mine, though a year or so ahead of me. He played the tuba in the Angleton band and was everybody's friend. He had a gentleness and generosity about him that most of us just took for granted. A local family took him in and eventually he fell in love with their daughter and married her. We were all quite happy for both of them and then the tragic news came full circle. He had been killed, so I heard, in an ammo dump explosion in Vietnam. I personally lost 3 friends over there, Robert, his friend and mine, Mike Cotton and another friend, Holly Langham from Tyler. It's hard when our finest and best are taken, but the rest of us enjoy our lives and the freedom they have earned for us because of people like Robert. I am proud to have known him and cannot keep a straight face when our flag goes by, for remembering friends like him.

Mike Nichols
a classmate
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From The Virtual Wall:
PFC Michael Cotton was killed in action on 23 Feb 1968 while serving as a medic with HQ Co, 4th Bn, 23rd Infantry.
Cpl Holland I. Langham was killed in action on 03 May 1968 while serving with B Co, 2nd Bn, 503rd Infantry.

Deadly hurricane kills all but one in the Dunn Family...
Remembering killer "Carla"
by Murray Montgomery, Jr.

Back when I was still working full time for The Gonzales Inquirer newspaper, I would often spend my weekends going through the archives and researching some of the old papers.

Sometimes I just decide to pick a year, and then go through every issue from that time period. The last one I researched was 1961. I really don't know why I picked that year - maybe because that was when I graduated from high school - and most of the memories from that time are good ones.

However, an old Inquirer from September 14, 1961, reminded me of one of the bad memories - one I had forgotten until now.

The story was from the Associated Press (AP) wire service and it was titled: "15-Year-Old Boy Describes Loss Of Family In Storm." And what triggered the bad memory for me was ... I knew that boy. As I recall, he and my sister were classmates and friends. The young boy's name was Robert Dunn and his life was indeed a tragic story.

Photo 1961 - Life Magazine

"In a little while, the water got higher than the attic..."
- Robert Dunn.

When Hurricane Carla crashed ashore on the Texas coast on September 10-11,1961, I was in the Texas Army National Guard and was going to the Army's armor training school at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. My family lived in Angleton, Texas. Robert Dunn and his family lived south of Angleton, along the banks of Bastrop Bayou.

According to old weather records, Carla had grown so large by September 9, that it enveloped the entire Gulf of Mexico - winds near the center were estimated at 150 mph. On that day a mass evacuation was ordered. It was reported that over half a million coastal residents fled the storm. This early evacuation greatly reduced the number of lives that were lost - records show that 46 died in the storm. Eleven of those who perished were from Robert Dunn's family. This number included members of his uncle John Drvar's family.

Robert's father, R. W. (Shorty) Dunn, felt as if he had been through several storms before and he really wasn't too concerned about this one. Local authorities begged him to leave because his home on Bastrop Bayou was in grave danger. He refused to be evacuated. He was asked let his children come out - again he refused.

When I returned to my National Guard unit in Angleton, several months after the storm, I talked with several of my buddies who were sent out to try to rescue the Dunns.

The guardsmen said they made three attempts to get the Dunn family out. On the third try, they lost a two and a half ton truck in Bastrop Bayou. The driver told me that when they reached a bridge, only one guardrail was sticking out of the water. He had to pick one side or the other, hoping to pick the one with the bridge underneath. His selection was wrong and several soldiers nearly drowned. That was the last attempt to rescue the Dunns.

In the AP story, Robert Dunn said that his father felt that he had been through storms before and Hurricane Carla would be no worse than the others.


Photo 1961 - Life Magazine

"All the food we had was a loaf of bread."
- Robert Dunn.

The article quoted Robert's description of the event:

      "He said if it got too bad we would leave," Robert said. "My aunt and uncle lived close to us and when it got pretty bad they came to our house."
      "What must have been a tidal wave suddenly covered everything, including the car, and we couldn't leave. Somehow we made it to the attic. All the food we had was a loaf of bread. My share was two slices, but two of the younger children were crying because they were so hungry and I divided my share among them. I didn't feel hungry anyway.
      "I think it was early Sunday morning that we got into the attic. We stayed there until the worst part of the storm hit. There was a big wave that came then and we all started to get on the roof. I managed to get up there.
      "The wind was blowing really hard then and I tried to reach down and help two of the children up. But something seemed to pull them away from me.
      "The last time I saw my parents, mother and dad were holding hands and she was crying."
Robert Dunn was on the roof of his floating home for three days. When the house finally came to rest on land, he walked out. Robert told me that he thought he was miles out in the Gulf of Mexico - because he was surrounded by water. He said he even saw a buoy with a red light on top. What he actually saw was the radio antenna above the Brazoria County Courthouse. The courthouse is five-stories tall.

In 1962, I was working with a survey crew for the Texas Highway Department in Angleton. One job took us to the salt-grass prairie near Bastrop Bayou and where the Dunn family home had been. There were several tall trees in the area, probably 30 to 40 feet in height. Each one of them still had debris from Hurricane Carla hanging from the very tops.

There were beds, refrigerators, stoves, boats, personal items, etc. It was a scary feeling to stand on the ground and realize that the water had actually been that high.

What makes the memory of Robert Dunn even sadder is that the tragedy didn't end with the savage hurricane in 1961. Several years later, this last member of the Dunn family was killed while serving with the military in Vietnam.



Editor's note: Images used here were scanned directly from an original copy of the September 22, 1961, issue of Life Magazine. Although the scanned image quality is poor, the expressions on Robert Dunn's face tell the story more than words could ever describe. One other note: Life Magazine reported that Carla was packing 170 mph winds around her eye when she came ashore.



© Murray Montgomery, Jr.
Lone Star Diary
Used with permission.
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The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a second cousin,
Brandon
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Webmaster@VirtualWall.org



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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 29 Jun 2002
Last updated 07/16/2006