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The story of one brave bomber pilot

Published on

George Mathewson

A Sarnia man has created a website as a tribute to his pilot dad, who defied the odds by surviving 43 harrowing bombing missions over Germany and Italy in the Second World War.

“I used to tell him he’s a refugee from the law of averages,” Tom Dunn said of his late father.

Indeed, Sean Hugh Dunn would seem an unlikely war hero. He grew up in comfort in Washington, D.C. and left to attend a prestigious university in a luxury car during the height of the Great Depression, his son said.

But like many young Americans whose country wasn’t yet at war, he came north to fight for freedom and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Toronto in October of 1940.

After a little training he was off to England.

“When you joined Bomber Command you had a 70% chance of becoming a casualty,” said Tom Dunn, a retired city businessman.

Tom Dunn
Tom Dunn

His father flew with 60 different men on missions and he and just nine others were still alive at war’s end.

In fact, of Bomber Command’s 125,000 aircrew, 55,000 were killed, 10,000 taken prisoner and 8,500 wounded.

On just his third sortie, Dunn was co-piloting a twin-engine Wellington when the fuel tanks were punctured and the bomber crashed into the frigid North Sea, killing one crew member. In his flight log, which comprises part of the website at, Dunn summarized the incident in 12 words.

But he later told his son how he and crew survived 30 hours in a rubber dingy by straining against a sea dragging them toward German-occupied France, and eventually tied up to a partially submerged shipwreck.

“He would talk to me and other combat veterans about the war but he wouldn’t talk to my mother about it, which drove her absolutely nuts,” said Dunn, 63.

Planes his father flew were damaged by enemy anti-aircraft fire at least 10 more times, but he somehow always managed to make it back to England, and he returned to Canada for good in 1944.

Dunn said he created the website with  computer help from Dave Cooke to provide an accurate historical account and to honour the memory of his dad, who died in 2007 at the age of 89.

“He was a pretty mellow guy who didn’t get excited about too many things. But if something came along that was tough and dangerous, he just loved it.”

After Sean Dunn settled in Sarnia with wife Helen in 1968, there was one thing he did refuse to do however – fly anywhere in an airplane.

“If they went on a trip to California, they always drove.”

















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