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 Kenneth Cecil Bunch

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Kenneth Cecil Bunch

Birth
Norman County, Minnesota, USA
Death
6 Jun 1942 (aged 23)
At Sea
Burial
Buried or Lost at Sea
Memorial ID
80335300 View Source

Kenneth Cecil Bunch was born on January 21, 1919, in rural Winchester Township, Norman County, Minnesota, the son of Henry Perry Bunch and Gladys Irene (Stilwell) Bunch. Shortly after his birth his parents, who were natives of Hamilton, Iowa, returned to the area and Kenneth grew up there.

When Kenneth was 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 9, 1937, in Des Moines, Iowa, and received his basic training in San Diego, California. The following year he married Leila Mae Byers in Flandreau, South Dakota, on December 22, 1938. They started a family together and had three children while living in Iowa and Minnesota. As a military wife, Leila followed her new husband after he was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virgina, where he attained the rank of radio airmen, first class, in 1941.

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Navy sent Kenneth to the West Coast for special training, where he became one of the 140 men known as "Doolittle's Raiders" aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Kenneth took part in Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's First Raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. This aerial attack, launched from the decks of the USS Hornet using long-range bombers, culminated in the first American strikes on the Japanese homeland during World War II.

On June 6, 1942, the last day of combat during the Battle of Midway, Kenneth Bunch flew as the radioman-gunner on a Douglas SBD-3 "Dauntless" dive bomber, piloted by Ens. Donald T Griswold. While pursuing and attacking the Japanese battleships Mogami and Mikuma off the coast of the Midway with their squadron, their plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. All American planes and crewmen returned safely that day except the plane carrying Kenneth Cecil Bunch and Donald T Griswold. They became the last two American casualties of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles in U.S. history.

The "Miracle at Midway" was a surprise upset: The Japanese outnumbered the Americans two-to-one in firepower because the U.S. Navy had suffered severe losses six months earlier during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Despite the odds, the four-day battle decimated and crippled the South Pacific fleet of the Japanese Imperial Navy, sinking four of its five aircraft carriers and severely damaging and sinking several of its battleships. The American victory also thwarted a Japanese plan to capture the Midway Atoll and use it as a stage to launch more attacks on Hawaii, the other nations found along the Pacific Rim and the U.S. West coast. Historians commonly view the victory at Midway as an important turning point that changed the course of history since the U.S. gained its first decisive victory and began to successfully push the Japanese back across the Pacific in its aftermath.

In death, both Bunch and Griswold were highly honored and decorated for their service and valor. The following year the Navy launched two new destroyer escort ships, naming them the USS Bunch and the USS Griswold in their honor. Kenneth's widow, Leila, christened the USS Bunch when it was launched on May 29, 1943. The ship would later take part in the invasions of Okinawa and the Kerama Islands.

The bodies of neither Kenneth Cecil Bunch nor Donald T Griswold could be recovered from the depths of the South Pacific near the Midway Atoll. (It is believed that the plane wreckage lies about 17,000 feet below sea level.) Their names were later inscribed in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a special national monument dedicated to the men who died during the Battle of Midway. The headstone and bronze marker in the Hamilton, Iowa, cemetery is simply a tribute from the townspeople to remember a native son who took part in an important event in American history.

Kenneth Cecil Bunch was born on January 21, 1919, in rural Winchester Township, Norman County, Minnesota, the son of Henry Perry Bunch and Gladys Irene (Stilwell) Bunch. Shortly after his birth his parents, who were natives of Hamilton, Iowa, returned to the area and Kenneth grew up there.

When Kenneth was 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 9, 1937, in Des Moines, Iowa, and received his basic training in San Diego, California. The following year he married Leila Mae Byers in Flandreau, South Dakota, on December 22, 1938. They started a family together and had three children while living in Iowa and Minnesota. As a military wife, Leila followed her new husband after he was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virgina, where he attained the rank of radio airmen, first class, in 1941.

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Navy sent Kenneth to the West Coast for special training, where he became one of the 140 men known as "Doolittle's Raiders" aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Kenneth took part in Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's First Raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. This aerial attack, launched from the decks of the USS Hornet using long-range bombers, culminated in the first American strikes on the Japanese homeland during World War II.

On June 6, 1942, the last day of combat during the Battle of Midway, Kenneth Bunch flew as the radioman-gunner on a Douglas SBD-3 "Dauntless" dive bomber, piloted by Ens. Donald T Griswold. While pursuing and attacking the Japanese battleships Mogami and Mikuma off the coast of the Midway with their squadron, their plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. All American planes and crewmen returned safely that day except the plane carrying Kenneth Cecil Bunch and Donald T Griswold. They became the last two American casualties of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles in U.S. history.

The "Miracle at Midway" was a surprise upset: The Japanese outnumbered the Americans two-to-one in firepower because the U.S. Navy had suffered severe losses six months earlier during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Despite the odds, the four-day battle decimated and crippled the South Pacific fleet of the Japanese Imperial Navy, sinking four of its five aircraft carriers and severely damaging and sinking several of its battleships. The American victory also thwarted a Japanese plan to capture the Midway Atoll and use it as a stage to launch more attacks on Hawaii, the other nations found along the Pacific Rim and the U.S. West coast. Historians commonly view the victory at Midway as an important turning point that changed the course of history since the U.S. gained its first decisive victory and began to successfully push the Japanese back across the Pacific in its aftermath.

In death, both Bunch and Griswold were highly honored and decorated for their service and valor. The following year the Navy launched two new destroyer escort ships, naming them the USS Bunch and the USS Griswold in their honor. Kenneth's widow, Leila, christened the USS Bunch when it was launched on May 29, 1943. The ship would later take part in the invasions of Okinawa and the Kerama Islands.

The bodies of neither Kenneth Cecil Bunch nor Donald T Griswold could be recovered from the depths of the South Pacific near the Midway Atoll. (It is believed that the plane wreckage lies about 17,000 feet below sea level.) Their names were later inscribed in Honolulu, Hawaii, on a special national monument dedicated to the men who died during the Battle of Midway. The headstone and bronze marker in the Hamilton, Iowa, cemetery is simply a tribute from the townspeople to remember a native son who took part in an important event in American history.


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