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John C. Kunkel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John C. Kunkel
John C. Kunkel.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 16th district
In office
May 16, 1961 – December 30, 1966
Preceded byWalter M. Mumma
Succeeded byEdwin D. Eshleman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 18th district
In office
January 3, 1945 – January 3, 1951
Preceded byRichard M. Simpson
Succeeded byWalter M. Mumma
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 19th district
In office
January 3, 1939 – January 3, 1945
Preceded byGuy J. Swope
Succeeded byLeon H. Gavin
Personal details
John Crain Kunkel

(1898-07-21)July 21, 1898
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
DiedJuly 27, 1970(1970-07-27) (aged 72)
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Political partyRepublican
Alma materYale University
Harvard Law School

John Crain Kunkel (July 21, 1898 – July 27, 1970) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. He was the grandson of John Christian Kunkel, great-grandson of John Sergeant, and great-great-grandson of Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant and Robert Whitehill.

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War is terrible. It is. I seen stuff that a kid shouldn't see. It was... It was bad. December 7th, 1941 a date which will live in infamy. The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. I was sitting out in the kitchen one day, listening to the radio, then they broke in, started talking about what happened at Pearl Harbor, and after that, I started thinking, I thought, "I'd like to join the Navy." When I enlisted I was 16 years old. I even quit school to join it. Only two days short of his seventeenth birthday, Don Kunkel enlisted with the United States Navy and was sent to Great Lakes for basic training. But because the minimum age requirement was seventeen, Don spent his first two days waiting. I didn't do nothing. They wouldn't let me do nothing. Then the next day, I turned 17. And then I went out in the field and started my Navy career. Everything was new to me and everything was hard. But I made it. I was scared to death, but I made it. In early 1945, Don was sent to the South Pacific aboard the attack transport USS Dickens to begin preparations for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Don's role would be transporting Marines and supplies to the beach aboard a small landing craft the men referred to as a "duck". The night before the invasion, as the Navy fleet shelled the beach, in hopes of softening the Japanese defenses, Don lay awake in his bunk, fearful of what the following day might bring. Big 16 inch guns roaring at night, all night long, out at Iwo Jima before they hit the beach. I was scared. I was scared to death. In fact, I had tears in my eyes. But... I had a guardian angel come to me and tell me... This is the God's truth. Told me that I was gonna be alright. That they had plans for me. She appeared in front of me and told me not to worry - that I would be ok. But she said, "Don't take any chances." We pulled up there and they lowered a cargo net in our boat. Said we had to take that in to the beach. And it was big boxes of hand grenades. And I thought, "Oh, Lord." "If we ever get hit, they won't find nothing of us." As Don made his first of many trips to the shore of Iwo Jima, He was quickly made aware that the Navy bombardment had done little to deter the Japanese opposition. And they was firing at us. You could see water flying all over around us. Those three days out in there was terrible. I seen... I seen stuff that a kid shouldn't see. It was... It was bad. We was out there waiting to get in to the beach and, this duck was out there, coming in from a ship, taking some more troops in. And they got a direct hit, right in the center of it. And you could just see everything flying. We pulled up alongside and they told me to jump in that duck to see if I could get some dog tags or something. Man, I jumped in there and - oh my God. Terrible. There wasn't one whole person in that boat. They was just tore apart. I just jumped back in my boat and they said, "Well, did you get any dog tags?" I said, "If you want dog tags, you go in and get them." I saw that, oh, a couple months every night when I went to sleep after that. War is terrible. It is. I seen more Marines laying up on the beach. That beach was covered with dead soldiers - the Marines. Just covered with them. We was right next to an LST at Okinawa, and a Japanese suicide plane hit it, got sunk. I seen things that really hurt me a lot. I seen something falling over a cliff. The Japanese soldiers was telling these women that the Americans would get their kids and torture them. And here, the women were throwing their kids over this cliff, into the water. The Americans, they saw what was going on and they got on the loudspeaker and told them not to do that because they'd be taken care of. They'd be given clothes and food. But they listened to the Japanese soldiers and they was throwing their kids over that cliff. Don was more than ready for a change of scenery, and the USS Dickens was sent to the Philippines. Although most of the Philippine Islands had been liberated, small groups of Japanese forces continued to hide in the hills, evading capture. The Japanese were coming down out of the hills at night. So we had to take women and children from one island, put them on the ship, and take them to another island where there wasn't no Japanese there. And this one woman was on there, she was pregnant. And I was helping her. Was gonna take her down to sick bay, and as soon as we got her on the ship she laid right down on the deck and the baby started coming out. And I was the only one right there beside her. And the deck of the ship, it was hot. It was about 112 there. And that steel deck was so hot, I knew if the baby hit that deck it would kill it, so... Me, I - here I am 17 years old, just going on 18, and that baby's coming out. I thought, "Oh, God." I kept hollering for a medic to get up. But anyhow, the baby came out, and I was holding the baby. This other guy came up and he says, "You're gonna have to tie the chord off and cut it." And I had my knife with me, and I took my knife and I - after he tied it off - I cut the chord. Then a few days later, they called me over the PA system to report to the sick bay. She wanted to thank me for helping her with the baby, and she let me hold the little baby. A little boy. Nice little boy. He was a cute little baby, but I didn't want to go through that again. Everybody from the ship, they called me Dr. Don. I said, "Yeah. Dr. Don's out of business." I said, "That's for sure." Don's time in the Philippines was relatively quiet. Occurrences of enemy activity were few and far between. Each day was almost as normal as it would have been back home. One Sunday I didn't have nothing to do, so I thought, "Well, I seen a church up there. I think I'm gonna go to that church." There was a man, a woman, and a girl sitting in front of me. Her name was Lestrina. They wanted to know if I would come up for dinner. I went up for dinner and we talked, and I told them about my life back in Ohio. They was such a nice family. It was a wonderful family. One night I went up to the house and he told me - He says, "If you consider staying in the Philippines here, you marry Lestrina, and you'll never have to work in your life." She was such a nice girl, really a good Christian girl. She was. And just as pretty as could be. This one Saturday night, I went up there to see her and she gave me a ring. She gave me this ring and she wanted me to come up Sunday for dinner, and I told her I would. The next day I came up and there was a bunch of people there. And her dad came to the door, took me by the hand. I knew something was wrong. He took me in the dining room. They had a big dining room table there, and they had her laid out on the table in a gown - a long gown. And I said, "What happened?" And he said the Japanese came down out of the hills that night, raped her, then they stuck a bayonet in her, here, and killed her. He unbuttoned it and showed me. Had a gash about that long right there. That was it. Don remained in the Philippines to begin preparations for the eminent invasion of Japan. But, before that day would come, Japan surrendered and the war finally came to and end. Don returned to civilian life and eventually raised a family, a family that continued to expand when, in 1992, he married Louise. Both Don and Louise had been through past heartache, but in each other, they found a strong bond and a lasting happiness. But only a few years into their marriage, Louise fell ill, in permanent need of being cared for. And Don never left her side. He counted it as his privilege - his life's purpose - to care for her. More than 50 years later, Don remembered the words he heard spoken the night before the invasion of Iwo Jima. Getting back to this guardian angel, when she told me that they had plans for me, the plans for me was to take care of my wife when she had the stroke. And I did, I took care of her. She was a wonderful lady, and I took good care of her. So, I always remember my guardian angel telling me that they had plans for me, and that was it. Yep, I'll never forget her.


Early life and career

He was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he attended Harrisburg Academy. He also attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale University in New Haven, in 1916, and from the law department of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, in 1926. During the First World War he served in the Students' Army Training Corps

U.S. House of Representatives

He was elected as a Republican to the 76th Congress and to the five succeeding Congresses. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1950 but was an unsuccessful candidate for the nomination for United States Senator. He served as county commissioner of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania from 1952 to 1956. He was elected as a Republican to the 87th Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of United States Representative Walter M. Mumma. He was reelected to the two succeeding Congresses and served until his resignation on December 30, 1966. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1966.


  • United States Congress. "John C. Kunkel (id: K000341)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • The Political Graveyard

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Guy J. Swope
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 19th congressional district

Succeeded by
Leon H. Gavin
Preceded by
Richard M. Simpson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district

Succeeded by
Walter M. Mumma
Preceded by
Walter M. Mumma
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district

Succeeded by
Edwin D. Eshleman
This page was last edited on 9 August 2019, at 15:15
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