Dale Wilson: Telegram on his mother’s birthday

Dale's crew

“The Secretary of War desires me to express his regrets that your son second Lieutenant Dale R. Wilson has been reported missing in action since twenty seven November over New Guinea. . . .”

Leora Wilson received this penciled Western Union telegram on her December 4th birthday, in rural Dallas County, Iowa, near Minburn.

By then, all five sons were in the military. Just the month before, Junior, the youngest, had just left for Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, Texas, hoping to become pilot like Dale and Danny. Danny was in Basic Training at Marana, Arizona. Older sons Delbert and Donald were serving in the Navy.

Daughter Doris had married an Iowa farmer who’d become an Army Air Force pilot, then an advanced flight instructor at Marfa, Texas. She was “expecting” a baby the next spring, but hadn’t told anyone yet.

Daughter Darlene, twin to Lt. Dale R. Wilson, was a farm wife with a toddler. She lived near Earlham. She was the only family member near enough to go through the heartache with her parents.

Dale Wilson had hoped to become a pursuit (fighter) pilot, but that early in the war, the Army Air Force needed bomber pilots in the South Pacific. He flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, but to his chagrin, his graduating class was made co-pilots for the class ahead.

Dale didn’t want someone else in charge of flying the plane, and had even requested to be transferred when they got to Australia. The answer was no.

Dale’s crew was assigned to the new 823rd Bomb Squadron of the 38th Bomb Group at 17-Mile Field, Port Moresby, New Guinea. 38th Bomb Group Most of the bombing and strafing missions were across the treacherous Owen Stanley Mountains.

The mission of Dale’s crew on November 27, 1943, was again the troublesome Japanese air dromes at Wewak and Boram, on New Guinea’s north coast. Their B-25 was hit by AA fire. Other pilots saw the plane hit the water and bounce, but didn’t see any of crew in the sea.

Because of extreme caution, the families of the six who were lost on that plane were not allowed to contact each other until over a year later. They consoled each other and speculated on what might have happened. Other crews had been rescued and made their way through the jungle. Perhaps. . . .


The crew:

Pilot 1st Lt. John M. Wieland, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Co-pilot 2nd Lt. Dale R. Wilson, age 22, Minburn, Iowa

Navigator 2nd Lt. John B. Stack, Grand Rapids, Michigan, married to an army nurse.

Aer. Gunner S/Sgt. Irvin E. Wollenweber, Wheeling, W. Virginia

Rad. Gunner S/Sgt. Stanley W. Banko, Everson, Pennsylvania

Aer. Gunner S/Sgt. Willie T. Sharpton, Dacula, Georgia

Wilsons received notes from people on the west coast who’d heard shortwave broadcasts naming Dale Wilson and John Stack as POWs of the Japanese, but this was never confirmed by the government.

Only God knows where the remains of these six young Americans lie today. 

Five Wilson brothers served. Only two came home. Their family story is told in Leora’s Letters.


  1. Such news was [is] always difficult for families to deal with but especially so around the holidays as they will always view those holidays differently than everyone else. We must pray for the families of those who have suffered all such losses but especially when their losses came at such times.

    • Grandma Leora remembered dates, so I imagine those difficult ones were seared into her memory, especially since those MIA dates are not imbedded in mine. But she never mentioned them to us grandchildren, sparing us.

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