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Sergeant Joe Gunn

For most Americans, all they know about Sergeant Joe Gunn is what they learned from the 1943 motion picture Sahara. (In fact, most of them probably assume, incorrectly, that he is a fictional character.) However, for Wotanbergers, Sgt Gunn holds a very special place in their hearts. This is because he saved the life of its future Grand Duke in 1942.

As those who have seen Sahara know, in June 1942, Sgt Gunn was with U.S. Tank Detachment 5 which was attached to the British Eighth Army in North Africa. Although the motion picture fairly accurately depicts what happen to Sgt Gunn and his crew during their now epic journey across the desert, what was left out was the presence and role of then Crown Prince (and Lieutenant) Victor von Weselstein.

The Crown Prince, the only survivor of a small raiding party sent behind enemy lines to sabotage a German fuel dump, ran into Sgt Gunn and his comrades just as his own vehicle broke down. The Crown Prince joined the group and played a significant role in its efforts to delay the German reconnaisance battalion at the well. On a number of occasions during the fighting, Sgt Gunn's own heroism saved the Crown Prince from almost certain death.

After their return to British lines (actually the relief force they met was a Free French column commanded by Capt Louis Renault), the Crown Prince arranged to have Sgt Gunn and his Grant tank "Lulu Belle" attached to his own "Wotanberger Volunteer Group". In August 1942, the Crown Prince's unit was attached to the 2nd Free French Brigade, where both the Crown Prince and Sgt Gunn renewed their acquaintance with Capt Renault, and made the acquaintance of his lieutenant and friend, American Rick Blaine. [1]

In mid-September 1942, Sgt Gunn was ordered to fly to the United States to participate in a bond tour and to assist in the filming of what was to become Sahara.[2] A few days before he was due to leave North Africa, Sgt Gunn volunteered to accompany the Crown Prince and a small raiding party on a sabotage mission well behind enemy lines. Although the raid went quite well and the party successfully returned to friendly lines, Sgt Gunn was killed when his jeep collided with a dummy water pipe recently laid to confuse the Germans as to the actual location and timing of the Eighth Army's impending counterattack. (For a photograph of Sgt Gunn taken the day before his death click here.)

The night before he died, the Crown Prince told Sgt Gunn--who had always said that the home he ever had was the Army--that he could always make Wotanberg his home. As he held the dying Sgt Gunn in his arms, the Crown Prince promised to bring Sgt Gunn home with him. After the war, he did, in fact, keep that promise and Sgt Gunn's remains were brought to Wotanberg, where they were buried with full military honors in Trevorstein in front of his favourite "horse"Lulu Belle.


[1] There was an uncanny resemblence between Sgt Gunn and Lt Blaine which was the source of some confusion not only to fellow soldiers but also the residents of Cairo. Click here for a photograph of the two men together at Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo. (Then Crown Prince (and Lt) Victor von Weselstein is the officer with his back to the camera.)

[2] When the Crown Prince learned that a motion picture was to be made of the incident at the well, he immediately requested that no mention be made of him for security reasons. Of course,the Crown Prince was quite pleased that, as can be seen in the poster for the motion picture shown above, the actor selected to portray Sgt Gunn, Humphrey Bogart, closely resembled his friend.