Born on December 21, 1929 in Kokomo, Indiana, Dale Hunt joined the Navy on November 22, 1943 and became an Aviation Ordnance man, responsible for weapons and ammunition on his aircraft. After completing his training on a Martin Mariner PBM-5 seaplane bomber, he became the tail gunner. On June 5, 1945, Dale and his crew, commanded by Lieutenant DeLand Croze, took off from their base at Tawi-Tawi, Philippines, on what was to be a 12 to 14 hour routine patrol mission. During their patrol, they spotted two Japanese freighters accompanied by a war ship, and made an attack. On the third bombing and strafing attack, the aircraft received severe damage from antiaircraft fire and made an emergency landing near the island of Celebes, now known as Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Two crew members were wounded in the attack and the skipper taxied the plane to the beach to seek medical treatment for the injured men. They spent the night on the beach and the following morning Japanese ground forces attacked the crew. The skipper ordered the crew to disperse. Dale, along with three other crew members, took refuge in a swampy area and remained submerged with their heads above water while Japanese soldiers passed within a few feet of their position. That night they made a crude raft of logs using their clothes to tie the logs together and paddled out to sea. When they reached the wave line, the raft came apart leaving them with a single log. After clinging to the log for over 40 hours, a plane from their squadron arrived to rescue the men. While swimming toward the rescue plane, a shark attacked Dale and pulled him under the water. He fought the shark but lost his left arm and had severe damage to his remaining hand. Dale received treatment on board the USS Pokomoke, on a Naval Hospital Ship, and at the Naval Hospital in Mare Island, California. After several surgeries and extensive physical rehabilitation, Dale received a discharge from the Navy on May 17, 1946.
In spite of his injuries, Dale worked hard all his life, and ignored the fact that he was missing his left arm and had less than a perfect right hand. He moved furniture, worked in a factory, and asked for neither help nor pity. Dale was an amazing man who played golf and got a hole in one during his retirement.
Dale Hunt died on June 20, 2001. His family scattered his ashes into the St John’s River in Sanford, Florida from the same bridge that Dale had scattered the ashes of his son, Harry Lee Hunt, who died in 1993.
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