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James G. Dunton, 101, a retired Army major and World War I veteran who had lived in Falls Church since 1950, died May 17, 2001, of pneumonia at Arlington Hospital, Arlington, Virginia.
Major Dunton was featured in the French efforts in 1998 to honor the few surviving U.S. veterans of World War I by awarding them the country's highest medal, the Legion of Honor.
The Department of Veterans Affairs had estimated that no more than 1,600 of the more than 2.1 million who served in France were still alive, a requirement for the decoration that added some urgency to the effort.
Major Dunton was pinned with his medal at the French Embassy by the French ambassador during the Veterans Day ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the end of the war. Maj. Dunton, a Circleville, Ohio, native, said at the time that he volunteered over the objections of his father, a doctor.
"I just wanted to go to France," he said in an interview. "The country had always been on the defensive . . . and I was very interested in helping the French."
He ended up serving as a sergeant in the Ambulance Corps, a position that wasn't as glamorous as he had imagined. "I had cooties so thick on my wool shirt you could scrape them off with a knife," he said.
He later edited an anthology of short stories about the war, "C'est la Guerre," a phrase he said he heard a lot of in France.
"'That's war.' I heard several Frenchmen use that phrase," he said. "Whatever happened -- if the dog got pregnant, the daughter got pregnant, the cow went dry -- everything got blamed on the war."
Afterward, he received bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Harvard University. He stayed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and worked on a series of romantic novels, including "A Maid and a Million Men."
That World War I potboiler, about a young woman who mistakenly found herself on a troop ship bound for France, was printed in paperback and distributed to troops fighting in World War II.
During that war, Major Dunton was called up and served as a public affairs specialist for various commands and subsequently for the Japanese occupation force.
He moved to the Washington area in 1950 to work in the Pentagon's public affairs office as director of special activities, both as a serviceman and as a civilian. He retired in 1965, when he became executive director of the Virginia Nursing Home Association.
There, he helped the nonprofit group, which became the Virginia Health Care Association, prepare for the introduction of Medicare. He retired in 1975 but continued consulting with the association until recently.
He was a member of the National Capital USO, of which he was a past president. He also was an elder of Falls Church Presbyterian Church.
His hobbies included golfing, an activity he pursued into his 90s.
His marriage to Berta Hunting ended in divorce.
He is survived by his
wife of 57 years, Dorothy Dunton of Falls Church.
On Thursday, May 17, 2001 of Falls Church, VA. Beloved husband for 56 years of Dorothy L. Dunton. Also survived by one nephew, four great-nieces and two great-nephews. Funeral services will be held at the Fort Myer Chapel, on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 at 9 a.m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery Columbarium with Full Military Honors.
Posted: 8 June 2001 - http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/jgdunton.htm
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