Soldier awarded Medal of Honor for ‘doing something big’
Oct. 23, 1918
“I want to do something big for my country.” Those were the words spoken by Parker Dunn as he boarded a train to Camp Dix, N.J., to serve in World War I. Dunn lost his mother at a young age and was raised by his aunt and uncle.
Dunn felt the call to serve his country when the United States entered into World War I in April 1917. He was rejected from enlistment three times due to his eyesight. Known for being tenacious, he refused to give up, and finally entered the Army in April 1918 as an infantryman.
Although he was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 312th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division, Pvt. Dunn deployed to Europe as part of a newly formed intelligence section under 1st Battalion. He was with the 78th Infantry Division troops that attacked enemy forces near St. Mihiel, France, in September 1918. The offensive overran the German forces in just two days, forcing their retreat. As part of the intelligence section, Dunn gathered information and observations from the front lines for his battalion commander.
In October 1918, in the Argonne Forest of France, the 78th Infantry Division came under heavy German machine gun and artillery fire, forcing American troops to jump into a nearby river for cover. Dunn and the intelligence section were tasked to build a bridge in order to gain better access to the village.
In the stalemate that followed the Battle for Grand-Pré, the commander needed to get a message back to an infantry company that was in reserve, giving them the mission to exploit a weakness in the German defenses.
Pfc. Dunn courageously volunteered for the mission and was shot numerous times during his attempts to deliver the message. He tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to complete his mission in spite of his wounds. Shortly after Dunn died, the reserve company did manage to ascend the hill and penetrate the enemy position.
The capture of Talma Hill facilitated an American advance on Nov. 1, 1918, which contributed to the final successful push by the 78th Infantry Division.
Dunn received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1922. The citation reads: “When his battalion commander found it necessary to send a message to a company in the attacking line and hesitated to order a runner to make the trip because of the extreme danger involved, Private First Class Dunn, a member of the intelligence section, volunteered for the mission. After advancing but a short distance across a field swept by artillery and machinegun fire, he was wounded, but continued on and fell wounded a second time. Still undaunted, he persistently attempted to carry out his mission until he was killed by a machinegun bullet before reaching the advance line.”
Dunn’s father accepted the award on his son’s behalf. In 2012, Dunn was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, and the chief of the MI Corps dedicated a barracks on Fort Huachuca in his honor.