Gunn, Paul (1899-1957)

"Pappy" Gunn was a former U.S. Navy flight instructor and airline official who was one of the last Americans to escape from the Philippines. His wife and four children were interned by the Japanese for the duration of the war, giving him a powerful personal stake in fighting the Japanese. Gunn was commissioned a captain, joined 5 Air Force in Australia, and quickly established a reputation as a master tinkerer and innovator, eventually rising to the rank of colonel and command of 5 Air Force Service Command. Most aircraft models deployed to the Southwest Pacific were field modified by Gunn and his assistants.

A Gunn makeover typically involved dropping superfluous equipment and crewmen and replacing them with more guns and fuel tanks. For example, Gunn remade the A-20, which proved mediocre in its design role as a conventional bomber, into an aerial gunship by replacing the bombardier with four 0.50 Browning machine guns. These were supplemented with two additional 0.50s in fuselage blisters and the twin 0.50s in the dorsal turret, giving the aircraft devastating forward firepower. Two high-capacity fuel tanks were installed in the forward bomb bay, and honeycomb racks were installed in the rear bomb bay for over 40 parafrag bombs.

Also known as the "Mad Professor", Gunn was a terror to subordinates to whom his reckless flying seemed suicidal, but he enjoyed the patronage of Ennis Whitehead, deputy commander of 5 Air Force.


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