JOHN GUNN

John Gunn is responsible for most of the content that is displayed in the Quantico Football History section of this site. John Gunn's help and resources were monumental in our efforts to identify and locate former football players from the 40's thru the 70's. He provided us with all the football team rosters that you see on this website. Thank you, John!


WHO IS JOHN GUNN?
By Gene “Bear” Carrington

     Jack Lummas lettered in football and baseball at Baylor University. In 1941 he played for the New York Football Giants. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines, later on becoming a Lieutenant. In 1945 he was leading a rifle platoon on Iwo Jima. The platoon had been unable to advance for over 30 hours because of heavy enemy rifle and mortar fire. Lummas finally took matters into his own hand. He grabbed a bunch of grenades and took off towards the enemy pill boxes. He was able to take out three pill boxes before he was hit by an enemy land mine. Lummas lost both legs below the knee. According to legend, one of his men came up to him after he was hit. Lummas asked, “Did we take the ridge?” After he was told that they had taken the ridge he said to the marine; “Well, I guess I won’t be playing anymore football?” Jack Lummas was 29 when he died. For his actions on Iwo Jima, Jack Lummas was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.
     Ted Williams, the legendary Boston Red Sox baseball Hall Of Famer was called up from the reserves to serve in Korea. While in Korea in 1952-53 Williams flew F-9 Panther jets on over 35 missions against North Korea. In Richard Ben Cramer’s book, “Ted Williams; The Seasons of the Kid”, he tells of the time Ted’s jet was hit and set afire. A Marine in a nearby plane was franticly radioing for Williams to “Bail Out”. Cramer’s book says that “William’s biggest fear was ejecting; at six-three, wedged in as he was, he was sure to leave his kneecaps under his gauges”. Williams tells the rest in his own words, “Nothing worked. No dive brakes, flaps, nothing to slow the plane. I came barreling is at more than 200 miles per hour, fighting the stick all the way”. After making the crash landing Williams was able to leap from the cockpit just before the fuel tanks burst. The plane was totally destroyed. Ted was back in the air the next day. Williams finished his great career in 1960 and was later named player of the decade for the 50’s.
     Another athlete with a Boston connection was Harry Agganis. Agganis was an All-American quarterback at Boston University. During the 1950 season Agganis was called up from his reserve unit in time to play for Camp Lejeune. Agganis, who would become the No. 1 draft choice for the Cleveland Browns chose instead his number one love, baseball. He was the starting first baseman for the Boston Red Sox in 1955 when he died from a blood clot following his fight with viral pneumonia.
     What do Jack Lummas, Ted Williams and Harry Agganis have in common? They are all part of “The Few, The Proud”, they all claimed the title, United States Marine. These stories, as well as the stories of thousands of athletes who served their Corps with honor and distinction, are lovingly researched, categorized and saved for posterity by the Marine Corps unofficial sports historian, Col. John Gunn USMCR-ret.
     Who is John Gunn? How did his labor of love, the chronology of Marine Corps athletics, get its start? Born in 1931, John’s love affair with sports probably started with his mother’s love of baseball. When John was five or six his mother would take him to Comisky Park for $1.00 ladies day to see the Chicago White Sox. John said that checking the box scores, the next day in the Chicago Tribune, helped him to learn how to read. John joined the Marine Corps in 1953 and served on active duty until 1955. He and his wife Joan were married on November 24, 1954 at the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. Last year they celebrated their 50th anniversary.
     John’s career as a reserve Officer saw him rise to the rank of Colonel. He spent 28 years in the reserves serving with units at Rock Island, Ill., Richmond, Va., El Toro, Cal. and Coronado, Cal. During John’s stay in the Corps, he held an intelligence MOS. From 1976 to 1982 John led teams to Marine bases on the East and West coasts to utilize and upgrade the air-operations module of the then, new computer war games. John retired from the Marine Corps reserve in 1983.
     His civilian life saw him devote 40 years to a career as a newspaperman. He spent 26 years on the news side and 14 years on the sports side. His career began in Monmouth, Ill., where he started out at $27.50 a week. From Monmouth, John and Joan moved to Galesburg, Ill., Wilmington, N.C., Richmond, Va., Costa Mesa, Cal. and in 1982, to the Orange County (Cal.) Register. John retired in 1994 as the assistant sports editor of The Register. During John’s time at the paper, The Register won two Pulitzer Prizes.
     Among John’s many accomplishments and honors are his selection for the; “Outstanding Young Men of America”, in 1967. He was a co­author, with a legislator, of part of Virginia’s 1968 Freedom of Information Act, which gives access to public meetings and public records. He received the co-Editor of the year award from the Orange County Register in 1987 and in 2004 he received the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama. This award is presented annually to those individuals who made outstanding contributions to national or international sport through education, research or service.
     In 1992 John had two books on Marine Football published. “The Old Core” and “(Quite) A Few Good Men”. These two books are a must read for all sports enthusiasts, but especially for anyone who ever took part in varsity athletics while in the Corps. During John’s newspaper career and Marine reserve career he visited as many bases as possible to go through their sports archives looking for as much information as was available. Everyone knows that Quantico produced some of the best military teams of all time and we all know about the great teams at San Diego, Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. We have also heard about teams from El Toro, Cherry Point and Parris Island, but only in John’s book; “(Quite) A Few Good Men”; will you be able to read about the teams at Kiamath Falls, Oregon and Pocatello, Idaho. The Marine Corps Rehabilitation Center at Klamath Falls treated Marines who had been shipped home from the South Pacific with various tropical illnesses. A football team was formed to help the men during their recovery. They played 5 games, winning two, losing two with one tie. Pocatello was the home of a Navy Ordnance Plant. Marines, suffering from tropical diseases as well as combat wounds, had been released from the Navy Hospital and been assigned to light duty performing security at the ordnance plant. At Pocatello a football team was formed to help further recovery. They played 6 games, winning one and losing five.
     Another great story from John’s archives is the story of how the Marine Corps saved the Rose Bowl in 1918 and 1919. Because of the world wide flu epidemic that devastated most countries after the war many college teams gave up football. The Mare Island Marines played a good brand of football and for two years they played in the Rose Bowl. (Get quote from john on this one)
     These stories are just a small part of John Gunn’s repertoire; information that he has available at his fingertips. It is doubtful if anyone connected with sports; newspaper, radio, T.V. or any of the many sport magazines could come up with this information.
     During John’s long career with the media, he met and interviewed some of the 20th century’s most famous people, including then California Governor, Ronald Reagan, Dr. Martin Luther King, Buckminster Fuller and syndicated newspaper columnist, Art Buchwald.
     Upon retirement, John moved to the Pensacola area in 1995. He continued to keep his creative juices flowing by writing articles and news columns for the local papers; the Pensacola News Journal, the Gulf Breeze Sentinel, The Gulf Breeze News and the Pensacola Beach Islander.
     During his career John and his wife Joan found time to get involved with his church and did volunteer work for the Red Cross. His volunteer work for the Red Cross included helping out after hurricanes Erin, Opal, Georges and Ivan. He has also helped out during tornadoes and fires. He
spoke on many occasions to civic clubs promoting the Red Crosses good works. In 1998, John was named Volunteer of the Year by his local Red Cross chapter in Florida.
     In 1999, John began writing a weekly column for the Camp Lejeune Globe. The subject was Marines and Marine veterans in sports. His column, which was started in September of 1999 now goes out to over 5950 e-mail recipients. Among the people who read John’s column every Monday are Marines, veterans, university presidents, professional and college coaches, athletic directors, bases, commands Headquarters Marine Corps and over 105 Generals, active and retired. The list goes on and on.
     A look at John’s e-mail for the week of December 13, 2004 had the following stories. Les Steckel, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, who also served as an assistant for the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills has been named the new president/CEO of the fellowship of Christian Athletes effective March 1, 2005. Steckel, a retired Marine Reserve colonel, was a decorated infantry officer in Vietnam (1969-1970). Steckel was a back for the Quantico football teams of 1970 and 1971. Steckel will be replacing Dal Shealy who has been the head of the FCA for the past 13 years. Shealy, also a Marine, was a guard for the 1960 Quantico team that enjoyed a 9-2 season.
Tom O’Brien, head football coach at Boston College announced that he had withdrawn his name from consideration for the head coaching position at the University of Washington. O’Brien is a Naval Academy Graduate who chose the Marine Corps. He was a linebacker on the 1972 Quantico team.
Gordon Gund, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association is negotiating with Michigan businessman, Dan Gilbert for the sale of the Cavaliers. Gund, along with his brother George III, purchased the franchise in 1983 for $20 million. The new asking price is a reported $375 million. The connection, George Gund III is a Marine veteran.
     Marine Second Lieutenant, J.P. Blecksmith, a 2003 graduate of the Naval Academy was killed November 11( Veterans day) during a military action in Falluja, Iraq. While at the Naval Academy Lieutenant Blecksmith was a member of the Middies football team where he played quarterback and wide-receiver. He was a four year member of the team, earning a letter his senior year.
     Texas A&M’s women’s basketball team beat McNeese State, 96-45 to bring their record to 6-1. Their coach, Gary Blair is a Marine veteran.
     Marine veteran, William F. DeChard of Bethany Beach, Delaware died at age 75. DeChard graduated from Holy Cross in 1951. While at The Cross, he was a member of the varsity football team for three years. During his senior year he was named to the All-New England All-Star Team and later that year played in the North-South All-Star Game at the Orange Bowl. Bill was a veteran of the Korean War and served in the Marine Corps from 1952-54. He played quarterback for Quantico in 1952.
     This is just a sample of the vast sea of sports knowledge that John sends out every week. A reporter from John’s old employer, the Orange Coast Daily Pilot, Roger Carlson, wrote a story about John for the December 21, 2003 edition of the Pilot. Carlson wrote “His news gathering includes scanning transactions and obituaries, and sports pages from the Los Angeles Times to Newsday and many, many others”. Carlson explained how John sent out over 5800 e-mails. In the article Gunn told him; “I send out my e-mails every Monday but there is a limit of 1,000 per hour, so I have to send about 150 at a time”. All in all it takes John about four to five hours each Monday to get his e-mails sent. John does this week after week because he has such a deep commitment but who will take his place when he can no longer handle his labor of love?
     In addition to his weekly column he has found the time to help Marine veterans in any way he can. One of John’s proudest accomplishments was helping to get George Sonny Franck, University of Minnesota 1941, elected to the College Football Hall of Fame at South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame. Information and material, provided by John Gunn, helped get Franck elected in August of 2003.
     In his book, “Quite a Few Good Men”, Gunn tells a story about George Franck. Lieutenant Jack Chevigny, who played for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame was better known as the coach at the University of Texas and of the NFL Chicago Cardinals. He would die on Iwo Jima. George Franck, an All-American back at Minnesota who played for the New York Giants and was a Marine aviator in World War 11, got to know Chevigny on a boat to Iwo. On the day that Chivigny died, Franck said no to his request to sit and talk in a shell hole. “I told him the hole scared the heck out of me,” said Franck. His reply was that lightning never hits the same place twice. Less than ten minutes later he was wrong. That still scares me today.
     With Franck’s success inspiring his efforts John, during the first part of November, 2004 sent a proposal that Dave Rankin, Purdue University, 1941 and now living in Lafayette, Indiana also be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
     If George Franck’s election to the Hall of Fame is one of John’s proudest accomplishments one of John’s big disappointments has been his inability to get the National Football League to honor their war heroes. In 1987 John wrote a story about Jack Lummas and his exploits on Iwo Jima. Since then John has written many requests to the NFL requesting that Lummas, as well as other NFL players who gave their lives be honored. Kevin Sherrington, in his article of April 27, 2004 for the Dallas Morning News was writing about Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal defensive back who gave up millions of dollars to enlist in the army when 9-11 happened. As everyone knows, Tillman was killed in Afghanistan and Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner was talking about Pat during the NFL’s annual draft day. Tagliabue said, “We will make certain that Pat’s values and what he represents continues to have a permanent place in the league.”
     Sherrington contacted John Gunn and asked for his thoughts about Tagliabue’s speech. Gunn’s reply was, “An excellent idea.” John said that he had only one question for the commissioner, one that he’s been asking for 17 years, “What about Jack Lummas?”
     Lummas isn’t the only Medal of Honor winner who played in the NFL. There is one other. Maurice Britt played one year for the Detroit Lions before being sent to Italy where he won the Medal of Honor. He would be severely wounded and eventually lose his right arm. Gunn asks a good question of Tagliabue, “What’s the problem, why are you continuing to drag your feet?”
     In May of 2003, John along with his daughter, Laura and her husband, Allen Clatterton attended a reunion of former Quantico Athletes where he had been asked to be the guest speaker. John talked for 25 minutes and barely scratched the surface. One of the athletes there that evening said, “Trying to give John Gunn 25 minutes to talk about the history of Marine Corps athletics is like trying to get Albert Einstein to explain E=mc2 in 25 minutes, impossible.”
     Timmi Toler, Sports Editor for the Camp Lejuene, N.C. Globe interviewed John back in April of 2002 when she came up with this wonderful quote form a great man who has given so much to “Quite a few Good Men.” John said, “The Corps history is rich, and the ties are deep, not only in sports but in many other areas. Marines are a special group of people; they take care of each other like nobody else. You can’t really explain it and I don’t think you can fully understand it unless you are one.”
     Well said Marine.
 
 
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