It was a cold, snowy, winter day in 1945 when Gunner, a sleek black and white Boston Terrier arrived in Guide Rock, Nebraska. Gunner had been shipped from San Diego following his "tour of duty" aboard the aircraft carrier Hornet in the South China Sea to the parents of his Master, Lt. H. B. Moranville. Gunner had been inside his dog house shipping crate for an extended time and as "Doc" Moranville opened the dog house door he shot out of the door, out of the garage to the snow slick streets of Guide Rock.
Guide Rock is a small Rural Town (about 500 population in 1945). Townspeople knew of Gunners war record and high school students were soon involved in the search for this famous Boston Terrier. The frightened Boston was soon caught and brought to the warm home of the Moranvilles.
Gunner was born near Alameda, California, and his breeder's son, a marine gunner instructor, made a gift of him to Fighter Squadron 11, the Sundowners, of Carrier Group 11. On the day Squadron 11 was ordered to sea and join a carrier, Gunner went to sea with them. Australian War Correspondent Bill Marien released the following story, along with a photo of Lt. Moranville and Gunner to the Australian newspapers in early 1945:
"Gunner" is a sleek black and white rubber ball, who bounces vigorously on quick legs of about ten inches high. His eyes are slightly bloodshot. This, however, is respectable in a dog of his breed, (Boston Bull Terrier) and is no indication of dissipation it must be admitted that his round, convex eyes give Gunner a look of a canine codfish. But this is a dirty insinuation, which both Gunner and fighting squadron 11 would be hot to deny.. .Twelve months ago, at the Alameda naval training field in California, a marine gunner instructor presented the little pup to the Squadron. In honor of his donor... he was called Gunner. the baby of the squadron, young Blake Moranville, who loved and is loved by animals, was told to take charge of the latest recruit.
Gunner was given flight instruction. Moranville would hold him on his lap in the cockpit of his Hellcat. But Gunner did not want to learn to fly. Every time after Moranville got off the ground and was safely airborne, Gunner would have disappeared from his lap and have climbed to his shoulders, where he would bury his head in the safety of the young pilot's flying jacket.
All this time the pup was growing from puppyhood to a highly strung, nervous dog. He was friendly to the entire squadron, but he reserved special allegiance for Moranville.
Came the day when Air Group 11 were ordered to the Pacific to join a carrier, Gunner went to sea. He was bewildered by the steel decks of the transport--and it was days before he realized that no matter how hard he scratched, steel would not fly behind him in roosters tail crescent like the good soil of California. But for the most part, he never forgot his indoor manners. The squadron realized they had been asking too much of him so when they boarded the carrier Moranville carried a sand. Gunner was quick to learn. Gunner did not even falter when he failed to recognize Moranville behind Moranville's newly acquired mustache, for his scent, after all, remained the same.
Gunner fitted perfectly in the hurley-burley life of the carrier. He learned what it meant when the "squawk box" in the ready room shouted, "pilots, man your planes!" and he would stay clear of the door through which the pilots rushed. He would wait, shivering, in the air- conditioned ready room until the fliers returned, sniff out Moranville, leap into his arms; his hint of a former tail revolving at one end and his pink tongue performing no less energetically at the other. He learned the bugle call which betokens general quarters. Then he would find Moranville and stick like glue.
Gunner fed from the officers wardroom. He has a preference for steaks, but will settle for ice cream and as a matter of fact, he has made it a rule to follow pilots to the interrogation room when they returned from a strike, to beg an ice cream carton or failing that, to lick clean the empties. Always, if things were quiet in the ready room he would stay close to Moranville.
But Gunner is a different dog now. Neither steak or ice cream interests him. General quarters and its frightening noises get no reaction from him. His stub of a tail does not wag any more. His eyes are ineffably sad, as only a dog's eyes can be. Once or twice he has raised himself from lethargy and raced into the wardroom, sniffing desperately from one pair of shoes to another, until a pilot leaned down, picked him up and carried him out.
You see, four days ago, Gunners shipmate, young Lt. Blake Moranville, an ace with six jap planes to his guns, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal- 21 years old, of Guide Rock, Nebraska, did not come back from a flight. Blake's division leader and friend, Lt. Jim Swope, came down with him as spraying oil from a severed oil line took the life from his engine. Although his windshield was just an opaque mass of oil, Moranville made a perfect, wheels up crash landing. He got out of the plane, unhurt and waved and grinned cheerily to Jimmy Swope, flying close above.
Unfortunately, there is no way of telling Gunner all that. He just can't be made to understand that there is a very good chance for him having Moranville meet him on the deck when fighting eleven and Gunner go home on leave.
Shortly after Moranville was shot down his squadron did go on leave. Knowing that Moranville was in safe hands they shipped Gunner to his home in Guide Rock. Gunner quickly adjusted to his new life style.
"Doc" Moranville was a veterinarian and Gunner loved to go on calls with him. Gunner 7 would listen as "Doc" answered the telephone tilting his head as if trying to determine if the outcome of the call would be a ride in the country. Upon ending the call, "Doc" would often say, "Do you want to go?" and Gunner would bounce three foot straight in the air. "Doc" soon became the new master of Gunner. When "Doc" would walk up town to get his haircut he would have Gunner set at the edge of the Moranville property and he would wait for his new masters return without moving.
Gunner decided that his new bed would be in "Doc's" bed. Mrs. Moranville, upon finding Gunner in her bed decided that this was too much, but as she reached to move him his quiet growl informed her that he intended to be their bed partner- and he was for the rest of his life.
Several weeks after Gunner arrived in Guide Rock Lt. Moranville's personal belongings arrived. Gunner remembered the scent and once again he searched for his first master. He would go to the room where Blake's belongings were and then would search the entire house.
When word was received that Lt. Moranville was on his way home everyone was excited. The family was to meet Blake at the Hastings College campus where Blake's sister Eleanor was enrolled. Of course Gunner was included. "Doc" parked the car near Eleanor's dorm. When he saw Blake and Eleanor approaching he let Gunner out of the car. Blake whistled, but no response from Gunner. He was busy examining new territory and paid no attention to Blake's calls or whistles. And then he picked up Blake's scent. From about thirty yards he charged and landed on Blake's chest, the tiny screw of a tail wagging and the tongue washing Blake's face.
Gunner was content to live the rest of his life with "Doc". He preferred his perch in "Doc's" car to the seat of an airplane. He became the father of Trixie. These two Boston Terriers brought years of enjoyment to all that came in contact with them.
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