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First Name: Russell

Last Name: Dunham

Birthplace: East Carondelet, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Brighton, IL
Middle Name: E.

Date of Birth: 23 February 1920

Date of Death: 06 April 2009

Rank: Technical Sergeant

Years Served:
Russell E. Dunham

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Russell E. Dunham
Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Technical Sergeant Russell E. Dunham (23 February 1920 - 6 April 2009) was a U.S. Army soldier who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II.

Russell E. Dunham was born on 23 February 1920 in East Carondelet, IL, and grew up on a farm in Fosterburg, IL. He joined the U.S. Army in Brighton, IL. His brother, Ralph, also joined the Army.

Near Kayserberg, France, on 8 January 1945, Technical Sergeant Dunham was serving as a platoon sergeant in Company I, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. His unit became pinned down at the base of snow-covered Hill 616, a steep hill in Alsace-Lorraine. With machine gun fire coming down the hill in front of their unit, and a heavy artillery barrage landing behind them, Dunham decided "the only way to go was up." While using a white mattress cover as camouflage against the backdrop of the snow, he began moving up the hill carrying a dozen hand grenades and a dozen magazines for his M1 Carbine.

Dunham crawled more than 100 yards to the first machine gun nest, while under fire from two machine guns and supporting riflemen. About 10 yards from the nest, he jumped up to assault it and was hit by a bullet, causing him to tumble 15 yards down the hill. He got back up and charged again, firing his carbine as he went. He kicked aside an egg grenade that had landed at his feet. Prior to reaching the nest, he tossed a hand grenade into it; when he got there he killed the machine gunner and his assistant. His carbine then jammed, and he jumped into the machine gun emplacement. He threw a third German in the nest down the hill where he was captured by Dunham's unit.

He picked up a carbine from a wounded soldier and advanced on the second nest, 50 yards away. As he came within 25 yards, he lobbed two hand grenades into the nest, wiping it out. He followed this up by firing into foxholes used in support of the nest. He then began his slow advance on the third emplacement, 65 yards up the hill and under heavy automatic fire and grenades. As he came within 15 yards of the nest, he tossed in more grenades and wiped it out. In doing this, he was narrowly missed by a German rifleman firing at him at point blank range.

During the action, Dunham killed nine Germans, wounded seven and captured two on his own. Nearly 30 other Germans were captured as a result of his actions.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company I, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Kayserberg, France, 8 January 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. At about 1430 hours on 8 January 1945, during an attack on Hill 616, near Kayserberg, France, T/Sgt. Dunham single-handedly assaulted 3 enemy machineguns. Wearing a white robe made of a mattress cover, carrying 12 carbine magazines and with a dozen hand grenades snagged in his belt, suspenders, and buttonholes, T/Sgt. Dunham advanced in the attack up a snow-covered hill under fire from 2 machineguns and supporting riflemen. His platoon 35 yards behind him, T/Sgt. Dunham crawled 75 yards under heavy direct fire toward the timbered emplacement shielding the left machinegun. As he jumped to his feet 10 yards from the gun and charged forward, machinegun fire tore through his camouflage robe and a rifle bullet seared a 10-inch gash across his back sending him spinning 15 yards down hill into the snow. When the indomitable sergeant sprang to his feet to renew his 1-man assault, a German egg grenade landed beside him. He kicked it aside, and as it exploded 5 yards away, shot and killed the German machinegunner and assistant gunner. His carbine empty, he jumped into the emplacement and hauled out the third member of the gun crew by the collar. Although his back wound was causing him excruciating pain and blood was seeping through his white coat, T/Sgt. Dunham proceeded 50 yards through a storm of automatic and rifle fire to attack the second machinegun. Twenty-five yards from the emplacement he hurled 2 grenades, destroying the gun and its crew; then fired down into the supporting foxholes with his carbine dispatching and dispersing the enemy riflemen. Although his coat was so thoroughly blood-soaked that he was a conspicuous target against the white landscape, T/Sgt. Dunham again advanced ahead of his platoon in an assault on enemy positions farther up the hill. Coming under machinegun fire from 65 yards to his front, while rifle grenades exploded 10 yards from his position, he hit the ground and crawled forward. At 15 yards range, he jumped to his feet, staggered a few paces toward the timbered machinegun emplacement and killed the crew with hand grenades. An enemy rifleman fired at pointblank range, but missed him. After killing the rifleman, T/Sgt. Dunham drove others from their foxholes with grenades and carbine fire. Killing 9 Germans--wounding 7 and capturing 2--firing about 175 rounds of carbine ammunition, and expending 11 grenades, T/Sgt. Dunham, despite a painful wound, spearheaded a spectacular and successful diversionary attack.

When Dunham was presented with the Medal of Honor, General Alexander Patch remarked as he placed the award around Dunham's neck, that his actions in single-handedly destroying the machine gun nests saved the lives of 120 U.S. soldiers who had been pinned down.

For his injuries on that day, Dunham also received the Purple Heart. Shrapnel from his injuries remained in his body for the rest of his life, and Dunham was quoted as saying "The shrapnel in my leg is a reminder of the war we fought."

Return to the Front

Dunham returned to the front before his wounds healed. On 22 January his battalion was surrounded by tanks, forcing most of the men to surrender. The following morning, two German soldiers discovered Dunham hiding in a sauerkraut barrel outside a barn. When their search of his pockets turned up a pack of cigarettes, they fought over it, overlooking his pistol in a shoulder holster. Later that day as he was being transported toward German lines, the driver stopped in a bar, giving Dunham the opportunity to shoot his other captor in the head and set off toward the American lines. Dunham suffered severe frostbite while completing his escape.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Croix de Guerre (for heroism from the President of France)

Personal life

Dunham's first marriage to Mary Dunham ended in divorce. His second wife, Wilda Long-Bazzell Dunham, died in 2002.

After the war, Dunham worked for 32 years as a benefits counselor with the Veterans Administration in St. Louis.

Dunham and his wife, Wilda, lived on a small farm near Jerseyville, IL, for over 30 years. In his later years he still enjoyed coon hunting.

He regularly attended a variety of functions related to honoring Medal of Honor recipients. Dunham erected a monument at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis in honor of those who served with the 3rd Infantry Division. The monument was dedicated on 20 May 2000, and stands near Flagstaff and Rostrum Drive on the cemetery grounds.

Death and Burial

Technical Sergeant Russell E. Dunham died of heart failure in his sleep on the morning of 6 April 2009 in Godfrey, IL, at the age of 89. He is interred at Valhalla Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Godfrey, Madison County, IL, in Section 2, Lot 88, Space 4.

Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Mary Neal of Cobden, IL; two stepchildren, Annette Wilson of Godfrey and David Bazzell of Jarreau, LA.; three sisters; and three granddaughters.

Honoree ID: 1372   Created by: MHOH




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