Profiles from the Archives: Charles L. Dunn

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Charles Lee Dunn was born on August 6, 1891 (though a number of records list “1892”), in the town of Scotland Neck in Halifax County, North Carolina, to Charles Wells and Elizabeth Manning Dunn. Prior to entering military service, Dunn was working as a brakeman for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Virginia.

While living in Norfolk, Virginia, Charles Dunn enlisted during World War I on June 8, 1917, into the U.S. Marine Corps at the Marine Base at Norfolk, with the entering rank of private. At that time, Dunn was described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall, with dark brown eyes and brown hair, and having a ruddy complexion. On October 5, 1917, Dunn was promoted to the rank of temporary corporal (though during July 1918, Dunn had been demoted back to the rank of Private for unknown reasons). In November and December 1917, Dunn was stationed at Parris Island, South Carolina, at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

On December 11, 1917, he was transferred overseas to serve in France with the 77th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps, as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. Dunn was involved in numerous military engagements and stationed at various locations, listed as follows: Toulon Sector, April 1, 1918, to May 12, 1918; Aisne Defensive, June 1-5, 1918; Chateau-Thierry Sector, June 6-23, 1918; Marbache Sector, August 9-16, 1918; St. Mihiel Offensive, September 12-17, 1918; Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Champagne), October 2-10, 1918; and the final Meuse-Argonne Offensive, November 1-9, 1918.

After the Armistice of November 11, 1918, Dunn entered a hospital due to exhaustion and some undescribed medical issue. He explained in a letter to his mother that he could survive with the medical issue, but now that the war was over he and some of his fellow soldiers were not pushing their delicate physical state as they had in battle.

Charles Dunn served in the Coblenz, Germany, region (modern-day Koblenz, Germany) with the Allied Army of Occupation, from January 6, 1919, to June 12, 1919. While in Germany, he collected printed postcards from around the area, and made notations on postcards showing where his unit was living and where he went to church while in Germany. Dunn wrote his mother during this period talking about his situation and his experiences in Germany during the occupation. Dunn returned home on June 30, 1919, and was honorably discharged at Quantico, Virginia, on July 18, 1919.

Following his military service, Charles Dunn returned to Virginia and married Cora Coffield Drake on December 3, 1921, in Portsmouth, Virginia. Charles Dunn had a varied work career after WWI, working as a manager of a gas filling station by 1930, then as a U.S. mail carrier by 1940. By 1940, Charles and Cora Dunn moved back to Charles’ birthplace of Scotland Neck, North Carolina. Charles L. Dunn died on July 7, 1947, at 55 years old, and was buried in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery in Scotland Neck, N.C.

To learn more about Charles Dunn’s WWI service, check out his collection Charles L. Dunn Papers (WWI 32) held in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in the NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.