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After 75 years, World War II veteran, Jerry Dunlap, 94, was awarded his high school diploma. With the help of Terry Frazier and the Weakley County Board of Education Office, Dunlap’s dream of a …
After 75 years, World War II veteran, Jerry Dunlap, 94, was awarded his high school diploma. With the help of Terry Frazier and the Weakley County Board of Education Office, Dunlap’s dream of a diploma came to fruition.
Just one credit short of graduating, Dunlap was conscripted and sent to the Western Theater. He often wished he had completed the one necessary credit, but life and lack of time got in the way.
In the spring of 1944, like many 18 year-old high school seniors, Dunlap was preparing to graduate. At the time, he didn’t believe graduating from Gleason High School was at the top of his priority list.
As war raged in the European and Pacific Theatre, young men like Dunlap felt “duty called.” In May 1944, lacking one English credit from receiving his diploma, Uncle Sam drafted Dunlap.
From rural Gleason, Tennessee, he was sent to Camp Croft in South Carolina for basic training. On New Year’s Day 1945, Dunlap sailed from the Boston Naval Yard to Le Havre, France.
Dunlap found himself in the thick of combat at Moselle River. Not wanting to relive war stories, Dunlap shares very little in terms of his time in combat, but did share the fact that several of his buddies were killed on both sides of him. He often wondered why he survived; fate, luck or divine intervention.
As U.S. forces advanced closer to Berlin, Private First Class Dunlap, Company G, 354 Infantry Regiment, 89th Infantry Division, received the order to halt the advance at Dresden, Germany. High command sent the directive to allow the Russian forces to take the German capital city.
On May 7, 1945, a week after Adolf Hilter’s suicide, Germany surrendered to Allied Forces. Dunlap was sent stateside on a ten-day furlough; then ordered to report to Camp Swift, Texas awaiting deployment in the Pacific with the promised invasion of Japan.
Following the detonation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered. With the war over, Private Dunlap was mustered out of the Army in April, 1946.
Soon he turned his attention to finding a job and marrying Martha Brawner of Pillowville. He began working for the Gleason Foundry then later for the Milan Arsenal. Finally, he started his own welding shop and remained there for over thirty years, retiring in 2001.
After retirement, he stays active in the hay and cattle business alongside his son-in-law Howie Cooper, daughter, Verna and his two grandchildren, Caleb Cooper and Camille Legens. He also makes time for his three great-grandchildren, Jack Cooper, Avery Kate Cooper and Harper Legons. Many spring and summer days, Dunlap can be found in the hayfield or mowing his yard or as he says “just sittin’ under the shade tree.”