(On this date, November 16, 2018, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present for the first time anywhere the second of the three members of the OCHF Class of 2018.)
Eugene was born to 1996 Osborne County Hall of Fame inductee Bliss Albro and Pearl Josephine (Nelson) Van Gundy at Osborne, Kansas on November 18, 1921. He graduated from high school in Osborne, Kansas in 1939. Eugene then attended John Brown University for two years and transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Eugene registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, and was described as being six feet in height, weighing 175 pounds, with eyes and hair color being brown. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in May 1942 and entered World War II as an aviator.
By July 1943 Eugene was assigned to the Marine Scout Bombing Squadron and had earned the rank of First Lieutenant. In April 1944 First Lieutenant Van Gundy was assigned to Air Regulating Squadron 3, Personnel Group, Marfair, West Coast, Mcad, at Miramar Air Force Base in San Diego, California. By April 1946 he had attained the rank of Captain. In July 1950 Captain Van Gundy was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 236, Marine Air Squadron Training Command, at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina. He was soon after sent to Korea.
Eugene flew in both World War II and in the Korean War, completing over 180 missions. For his valor as a pilot Eugene earned four Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and numerous other awards and honors.
* * * * * *
“It was not until September 23, 1951, that an F7F achieved the type’s second – and last – aerial victory. Major Eugene Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas Ullom picked up a PO-2 coming into Kempo [Air Base], but too late to get anything airborne in time for an intercept . . . Lowering his flaps to the maximum setting, Van Gundy eased up behind the Mule, which was not expecting any pursuit. A few miles north of Seoul, a fusillade of 20mm rounds converged on the frail machine resulting in its immediate disintegration. It was an outstanding kill for VMF(N)-513 and a portent of things to come when the unit received its Douglas F3D Skyknights later in the war.” – “F7F Tigercat”, Flypast Magazine, June 2018.
* * * * * *
On September 23, 1951, an F7F-3N Tigercat of the “Flying Nightmares,” VMF(N)-513, flown by Major Eugene A. Van Gundy and Master Sergeant Thomas H. Ullom, was aloft searching for a “Bedcheck Charlie” Polikarpov PO-2 biplane and made radar contact. The Tigercat pilot purposely went down to minimum speed to avoid overshooting the slower biplane. At a range of about 500 feet, Van Gundy made visual contact and fired about 100 rounds of 20mm ammunition at it. The Polikarpov burst into flames instantly and was seen burning on the ground as the F7F-3N returned to base.” – Robert F. Dorr, “The Lore of the Corps: F7F Tigercat was terror of night skies in Korea”, in the Marine Corps Times of April 26, 2004.
* * * * *
“Major Eugene A Van Gundy, U. S. Marines, is reported among the wounded in the Korean War. His wife lives in Osborne.” – Salina Journal, January 20, 1952.
* * * * * *
“Major Eugene A. Van Gundy, Osborne, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Marine Corps in Korea. He received the decoration for shooting down an enemy plane at night, an unusual accomplishment of the Korean War. This marks the fifth time Major Van Gundy has been decorated. He previously had been awarded four Air Medals. His wife Betty, son Rodney, and parents Mr. and Mrs. Bliss A. Van Gundy, all reside in Osborne.” – Osborne County Farmer, July 3, 1952.
* * * * * *
Eugene was first married to Betty Rae Fallis in 1944. They had three sons, Rodney, Martin, and Thomas. He then married Geneva Marie Stiner on March 5, 1965 in Elk City, Oklahoma. With Geneva Eugene had three daughters, Billie, Sherri, and Doryce.
At the end of the 1950s Eugene left the Marine Corps and took a job with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), spending a great deal of time in Europe. While there he spent nine years working with the development of the Concorde supersonic aircraft and was one of the first Americans to pilot it.
After retirement from the FAA Eugene and his family settled in Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ardmore and of the Military Officers Association of America. Eugene’s hobbies were camping, cabinet making, wood working, traveling, eating (especially ice cream and M&M’s) and numerous family activities. He loved animals, especially horses and birds, and was known for his infectious humor.
Retired USMC Colonel Eugene Alleyn Van Gundy passed away on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was laid to rest in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Ardmore, Oklahoma, with full military honors. Eugene joins his father Bliss Van Gundy with an honored place in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.
Natoma Independent, May 21, 1942; April 16, 1953.
Osborne County Farmer, July 3, 1952.
ebook-dl.com/magazine/flypast-april-20169547.pdf, Page 42.
Fortitudine, Volume 32, Number 4, 2007, Marine Night Fighter Aerial Victories in Korea by CMSgt. David P. Anderson, USAF, Air National Guard History Office.
The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 398.
U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1893-1958. Microfilm Publication T977, 460 rolls. ARC ID: 922159. Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Record Group 127; National Archives in Washington, D.C.
http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story.php?f=0-MARINEPAPER-2799737.php, April 26, 2004: “The Lore of the Corps: F7F Tigercat was terror of night skies in Korea”, by Robert F. Dorr.