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The WW II days of Obama's grandfather

SURELY, Stanley Dunham was gazing skyward 65 years ago, on D-Day.

Dunham, the man whom Barack Obama would one day call Gramps, was a 26-year-old supply sergeant stationed near the English Channel with the US Army Air Forces when the invasion of Normandy at last began. Six weeks later, he crossed the Channel, too, and followed the Allied front across France. A year later, he was on track to fight in Japan when the atom bomb sent him home instead.

Dunham, who died 17 years ago, was the Kansas-born grandfather with the outsized personality who helped to fill the hole in the future president's life created by the absence of Obama's Kenyan father.

Sergeant Dunham's war years have been something of a mystery, the details of dates and places lost with the passage of time. The units that he served in were unknown even to the White House.

But a life-size portrait emerges from interviews and records unearthed by The Associated Press. On D-Day, documents place him at Stoney Cross, England, in the 1830th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Co, Aviation.

"This was the day we had all been waiting for,?Dunham's commanding officer, Frederick Maloof, wrote the night of June 6 from their base. "Planes by the hundreds took off and landed at our field from dusk until dawn.?

His company supported the 9th Air Force as it prepared for the assault on Normandy and took part in the drive that carried the Allies across France. Dunham and the men of the 1830th came across six weeks after the initial Normandy invasion and followed the front through France, servicing airfields in places such as Brucheville, Cricqueville, St Jean-de-Daye, Peray, Clastres, Juvincourt and Saint-Dizier.

On Friday, the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Obama visited the gravesites and beaches of Normandy.

"I knew him when he was older,?Obama said of his granddad in 2007. "But I think about him now and then as he enlisted ?a man of 23, fresh-faced with a wise-guy grin.?

To the 75 men of Dunham's company, he was a good guy to have around. For one thing, he taught the men how to use their new gas masks.

He also came up with a radio, games and books for a day room that Dunham's commanding officer described as "a swell place to spend an evening.?

For all the good times, the strains of war were ever present for Dunham and his fellow soldiers.

On the evening after D-Day, Dunham's unit dug 27 foxholes. "This was done in case of a retaliation by the Germans,?Maloof wrote.

On June 11, the first hospital ships returned from France, bringing tales of the "hardships encountered on invasion day.?

That same day, Maloof wrote that "our mail has not been reaching home,?a cause of concern for "the wives and sweethearts.?

The wives included Madelyn Dunham, back home in Wichita, Kansas, with Stanley Ann, who would become Obama's mother.

Madelyn, the grandmother known as "Toot?who helped raise the future president, did her part for the war effort, working the night shift as a supervisor on the B-29 bomber assembly line at a Boeing plant.

Stanley Dunham's older brother Ralph, Obama's great-uncle, also is a branch in the wartime family tree.

Ralph was called up after Stanley enlisted. He landed at Normandy's Omaha Easy Red beach on D-Day plus four, then worked his way through France, Italy and Germany as an assignment and personnel officer.

In the months before the invasion, the brothers met twice in England. Once, they came across each other by happenstance in London.

"I walked down the steps and there was my brother sitting on a settee,?92-year-old Ralph Dunham said.

The two Kansas boys spent the rest of their leave together, touring the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and other sites.

In his autobiography, Obama reports that during the war his grandfather was "sloshing around in the mud of France, part of Patton's Army.?

That's right, at least for a few months.

In February 1945, at Saint-Dizier, Dunham's unit was assigned to Patton's 3rd Army, and Dunham remained in that company until early April. Prior to February, Dunham's unit had supported 1st Army operations.

Obama sketches Dunham as a man with a wild streak who settled down to sell furniture and life insurance.

By the time he joined the Army, he had lived off odd jobs, "hopping rail cars to Chicago, then California, then back again, dabbling in moonshine, cards and women,?Obama wrote in his autobiography, "Dreams From My Father.?

Dunham had also fallen in love with a woman from the other side of the tracks ?the good side ?and married her. He eloped with Madelyn Payne just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, and he was quick to enlist after the Japanese attack.

In November 1942, while Dunham still was stationed stateside, he got leave to come home to Kansas when his daughter, Stanley Ann, was born at Fort Leavenworth.

Four months after he transferred out of the 1830th, Stanley Dunham was discharged from the Army on August 30, 1945, at Fort Leavenworth.

Dunham and his family eventually settled in Hawaii, where he and his wife would be central figures in the life of their grandson after Obama's father left the family. Madelyn died last year at age 86, two days before Obama was elected president.

Stanley, who called his grandson "Bar,?died in 1992 at age 73.

But Ralph Dunham is reminded of his brother every time Obama's face appears on TV or in the paper.

"You know,?Ralph said, "he looks exactly like Stanley. He looks exactly like my brother, only he's dark.


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