Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 19, 2011

Mercer family to conduct memorial service for World War II soldier KIA

LASHMEET —  A Mercer County family that has been waiting nearly 70 years for closure will hold a memorial service at 2 p.m., on Sunday, June 26, in the Crotty Cemetery at Pinoak to honor Private First Class Paul Carlton “Carly” Gunter who had been missing in action since Feb. 17, 1943, and listed as “non-recoverable” at the end of the year.

“The never knowing part was the hardest thing on our family,” Ellen Bolt of Princeton said. “Where was his body? Where did he draw his last breath? Was he tortured? That all bothered my grandmother.” Bolt was one of Carly Gunter’s nieces.

Pfc. Gunter was the second son of Robert and Ali Gunter of Dott, who joined the military before the U.S. entered World War II. Carly joined the U.S. Army on June 6, 1940 when he was 19 years old, but his older brother, Dewey Gunter, was already in the military. Dewey, who died in 1996, was stationed at Schofield Barracks when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He later volunteered to join Merrill’s Marauders, a group of jungle fighters who disrupted Japanese communications and supply lines throughout the south Pacific.

Pfc. Carly Gunter was serving with Company A, 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in northern Africa in early 1943. By that time, his brother Bill Gunter was serving in the Army and stationed in Alaska while his sister, Mary Gunter was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and would remain stateside through the duration of the war.

On Feb. 14, 1943, the German Army’s 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions started advancing on an Allied-held position at Faid Pass in Tunisia. The Allies fought back with elements of the U.S. 1st Armored Division and 168th Infantry, but in a short while, the Germans were engaged with American defenders in the battle of Sidi Bou Zid. That battle became the opening event of what would later be known as the Battle of Kasserine Pass.

According to information gathered by Howard McDowell, one of Carly Gunter’s nephews, on Feb. 17, 1943, Company A was ordered to guard a minefield, but their position was compromised by a superior enemy force. Gunter and others defended the position as his comrades attempted to withdraw through enemy lines in groups of 8-12 soldiers at a time. Two officers and 16 enlisted men made it back to American lines, but Gunter and Pfc. Everett C. Stover, didn’t make it.

“Both were declared MIA on Feb. 20, 1943,” McDowell wrote. “According to military records, ‘a recommendation of non-recoverability’ was submitted by the Africa-Middle East Zone on Dec. 22, 1943.”

However, that was not the last that Gunter was seen, according to McDowell’s research. First Sgt. Earl W. Huddleston, an escapee from an Italian Prisoner of War Camp, reported that he had seen Gunter and Stover at a POW camp near Palermo, Sicily on March 23, 1943 and both appeared to be in good health. He reported that Stover remained in a German POW camp in Tunis while Gunter was shipped to a camp in Palermo — the same Italian POW camp that he (Huddleston) escaped from.

“1st Sgt. Huddleston said that Carly was being moved to another prison camp on a train,” Bolt said. “The American bombers were hitting the enemy trains and trucks that were moving then. The train he was on was apparently a munitions train because when a bomb hit it, it blew up in a terrible explosion. They never found any remains. They didn’t even find Uncle Carly’s dog tags.”

By February of 1944, the Gunter family received notification that Pfc. Gunter was presumed dead.

“Being that Uncle Carly was the youngest son, the whole family thought of him as being special,” Bolt said. “They had a farm near Dott, but it’s gone now. Everything in Dott is about gone now. But the Crotty Cemetery’s still up there. That’s where Uncle Carly’s parents and some of his family are buried. That’s where the family decided to place his marker.”

Bolt said that the family has been working with Tony Whitlow and the For Those Who Served Museum on getting the marker placed and arranging for an honor guard to conduct military graveside rites for her uncle. She was only a year old when Pfc. Gunter was captured, but she said that all of his family has always spoke of him as though he was still right there with them.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

1
Text Only
Local News
National and World
Newspaper Deivery Routes Available
Sister Newspapers' News
Facebook
Local News Videos