StoryCorps: Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn A gritty Marine, Donnie Dunagan fought in Vietnam, earned decorations for his service and retired as a major. But all his life, there was one thing he could never escape: He was the voice of Bambi.
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Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

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Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right, our Friday series, StoryCorps, is known for making people cry. Sometimes they're tears of sadness, other times joy, always some human connection. Today's story involves a U.S. Marine who had a secret which he kept throughout his career. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran, Maj. Donnie Dunagan, who spoke with his wife, Dana. His secret involved a movie that made people cry, "Bambi."

MAJOR DONNIE DUNAGAN: I got a draft notice in 1952. Korean War is still going on, and I'm going to do my duty. I think I had 13 promotions in 21 years. As I remember, it was a Marine Corps record at the time.

DANA DUNAGAN: Did anyone know that you were the voice of Bambi?

DONNIE DUNAGAN: During the Marine Corps? No chance. I never said a word to anybody about Bambi. Even to you, when we first met, I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people's minds of Bambi was a little, frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BAMBI")

DONNIE DUNAGAN: (As Bambi) Mother, look. What's all that white stuff?

PAULA WINSLOWE: (As Bambi's mother) It's snow.

DONNIE DUNAGAN: (As Bambi) Snow?

I am a commander in the Marine Corps, boot camp drill instructor. There's hundreds of recruits I'm responsible for. I just thought to myself, I don't think I want all these young Marines to start calling me Maj. Bambi, and I kept my mouth shut.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DANA DUNAGAN: When did your comrades find out?

DONNIE DUNAGAN: One Marine learned about it a month before we both retired. I worked for him three times, twice in combat, and I'm one of his guys. A major audit was going on, on the base. I am up to my neck in duties. He called me in at 5:30 in the morning; I will never forget. I go in his office, and he says Dunagan, I want you to audit the auditors. I never said a disrespectful word of this man in 20 years. So I says, General, when do you think I am going to have time to do that? Then he looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. And there's a big red top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere - had my name on it. He passes this folder, looks me in the eye and says, you will audit the auditors, won't you, Maj. Bambi?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DANA DUNAGAN: So how has your life been different than you imagined it would be?

DONNIE DUNAGAN: Oh, golly, well, I have some holes in my body that God didn't put there. I got shot through my left knee, got an award or two for saving lives over time. But I think I could've been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House, it wouldn't make any difference. It's Bambi that's so dear to people. But I love it now when people realize this old jerk - still alive and was Bambi. And I wouldn't take anything for it - not a darn thing for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: United States Marine Donnie Dunagan, the voice of Bambi, with his wife Dana in San Angelo, Texas. Their conversation is archived at the Library of Congress. And the StoryCorps podcast is at iTunes and at npr.org.

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