Colonel John J. Dunn

For a long time now an attempt to cause the MOH to be awarded to Colonel John J. Dunn has been undertaken by relatives and some of the Tiger Survivors.  This project has taken a large step in the past few days and the paperwork is on its way to Washington.
Colonel Dunn, then a Major, was captured after being shot two times in the jaw and face area.  Despite his wounds he took over command of the group from the 24th Infantry Division (mostly).  Such action would normally mean death at some point.  The North Koreans were killing a lot of POWs in those days.  ( Much like today except they are killing their own people) This group of POWs came to be known as the Tiger Survivors. 58 % perished in captivity.  81 multi national civilians were with us as well.

All through this terrible ordeal Major Dunn was held responsible for the entire group.  He organized the group into sections as allowed by the North Korans.  This  was an important part of our survival.  Many many other things happened along the way as you can well imagine.

The most outstanding incident regarding Major Dunn was when some Chinese and Russian Army officers came to our camp in the spring of 1951.  They had a meeting with Major Dunn and Captain Boysen (Medical Doctor).  Ironically the Tiger was not invited.  Apparently news of the Tiger atrocities had reached the outside world and these Russians and Chinese officers were investigating this. (in my humble opinion).

During this meeting ( remember 220 of us had died the previous winter at Hanjang-nee including an American Bishop Patrick Byrne), Major Dunn took a chance thinking he could stop the killings and deaths among our group, and told them about the activities of the Tiger.  Major Dunn actually thought this would cause his death but instead the Tiger was actually relieved of his command and departed with all the NK guards and officers who were considered the bad ones.  In the fall of 1951 we were turned over to the Chinese Army POW camps at Chang Song North Korea.  The officers were taken to the officers camp.  Only 10 more of us died under Chinese control and the cause of death was brought with them from the Koreans.

Major Dunn was a tough man and used to box bare knuckle to get pocket money.  He Joined the Army as an enlisted man and later became an officer.  WW 11 found him in Burma-China with the Merrills Maurauders (spell) where he became a Company Commander and was awarded  the DSC medal when he went out into  the front of his men and brought another officer who had been wounded, to safety. This group was actually the beginning of the Army Rangers and Special Forces we know of today.

Hope you can pass this on to interested people.  I hope this will be approved in my lifetime and I will let you when and if it happen.

NOTE:  General Dean our CG who took the 24th to Korea also has been awarded a MOH.  The division was surrounded at Taejon and at that time the General got a boozoka and went hunting Russian T-34 battle tanks.  He should have been leading his division out of that trap.  He was captured and held in isolation until release.  I have never figured out why he was awarded that medal. I talked to the general when he was at Berkley and he told me he did not want it but it was forced upon him.

Thank all of you for your service. Life was hard then with little reward except for that proud feeling you have down deep in your heart knowing you did your very best.  I was never an eagle but I did get to be with those who were.  What they did is known only to God.

Shorty the Tiger


  1. colonel john dunn should get ten of those metal of honor metal he was a great man i was a pow at the same time he was taking all of that stuff for us he stood beside LT thornton when he was shot that could have been him that was shot again he was a great man

  2. Someone Researching Korean War

    who is the interviewee? I am attempting to use this interview in an essay. Thank you!

    • Shorty Estabrook

      I am the founder of the Tiger Survivors. I am Shorty Estabrook one of the EM with Major Dunn. I wrote this piece. I am 86 now and our group is down to 40 still living.

      • Kathy Cantrell

        I am so thrilled to learn about John J Dunn. His father was my Grandmother’s brother. I sure wish I had known he was alive until so recently (1992) I would have visited him in Alabama. Is his wife still alive? My name is Kathy Arnold Cantrell. My grandmother was Kathryn Dunn Bidwell. I would love to know more about him. Where May I find more information?

        • Rita Monteiro

          Hi Kathy,
          My name is Rita and John Dunn was my Godfather. I spent a considerable amount of time with him during the first two and a half decades of my life. He was an amazing man and inspiration. I miss him and think of him often – he was like a Grandfather to me. I recently ran the Marine Corp Marathon and visited him In Arlington National Cemetery. He was truly a great man.
          I would be happy to share my memories of him.

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