Unruh was born in Pretty Prairie, Kansas. He joined the US Army Air Corps prewar and served at France Field near the Panama Canal.
Unruh became commanding officer (C. O.) of the 5th Bombardment Group on August 10, 1943 and served as commander until December 30, 1943. His personal aircraft was B-24D 41-24186 that he nicknamed "Pretty Prairie Special".
Missing In Action
On December 30, 1943 took off piloting B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 leading a bombing mission over Rabaul. Over New Ireland, his B-24 was attacked by Japanese fighters and was last seen at 12:37 before it crashed into the sea, roughly 10 miles north of the southern tip of New Ireland. Natives paddled out to the survivors in canoes and took them to shore. Eight survivors, including Unruh were later sighted on the beach by fellow B-24 pilots and dropped supplies, but were taken prisoner by the Japanese.
Prisoner of War
The survivors were transported to Rabaul POW Camp. As a senior officer, Unruh was transported to Japan. Detained for the remainder of the war at Rokuroshi POW Camp. As the senior officer at the camp, he became the commander of the American prisoners. At the end of the war, he accepted the surrender of the camp from Lt. Tsuntaro Habo, who turned his sword over to him on the day of surrender, and was photographed by US Army Signal Corps photographer accepting the surrender on September 7-8, 1945.
Unruh was stationed in Japan during the 1950s and served in the Korean War. In retirement, Unruh finished building a custom built airplane he originally stared in 1937, that he nicknamed "Pretty Prairie Special II". On June 27, 1966, his PPS II-Model 1 biplane made its first flight.
Unruh earned many awards including the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) with an oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with four oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart.
Unruh died on April 14, 1968 and is buried at Lone Star Cemetery in Pretty Prairie, KS.
Homebuilt Aircraft (Air Progress), Summer 1968, Page 28
Rokuroshi POW Camp
FindAGrave - Marion D. Unruh (photo, grave photo)