Dale Wilson’s Crew: Missing in Action

After several frustrating attempts, due mainly to bad weather, to reach the enemy airfields in the Wewak area, Dale’s squadron was part of a major strike against the Boram airdrome and Cape Boram on the north coast of New Guinea two days after Thanksgiving. 

They were part of a coordinated attack by all four squadrons–a more than 1000 mile round trip over the rugged Owen Stanley mountains, through the Markham and Ramu Valleys, and over the Sepik River to the target. Approaching the target nine abreast, low waves of the strafers dropped 100-point demolition bombs over Wewak’s entire revetment and airstrip areas. They were met by intense AA (antiaircraft) and machine gun fire as they strafed shacks in the coconut groves. The 822nd Squadron lost a plane and a crew on this mission. Two planes of the 823rd were hit.

B-25 #42-64889 crashed at sea off Cape Boram east of Wewak. Antiaircraft fire from the six 105-millimeter guns on the cape probably hit the left wing and tail of the bomber as it made a run over the area. Pilot Ed Poltrack had to swerve to avoid the crippled Wieland-Wilson plane. The entire tail section broke off just before the plane crashed into the sea. Poltrack watched it hit the water, bounce, coast for half a mile with the left engine dead, and hit again. It all seemed to happen very slowly, he said. The plane broke up in the sea about a mile and a half northeast of Boram’s AA guns.

WewakOct161943
Wewak’s AA guns in the center, a B-25 at right. Taken October 1943.

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The Crew

Six MIA telegrams were sent out–to Iowa, Michigan, West Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania. Six families. Parents, some of whom already had lost a son to the war. Siblings as young as 10. Grandparents. A wife. Friends. None of the crew had children.

Pilot, Lt. John M. Wieland

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Pilot, Lt. John M. Wieland

Pilot of the B-25 was John Wieland, born in 1918, was the son of C. Fred and Rachel Wieland of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had two brothers, Ted and Bill, and a sister Nancy. Bill Wieland also became a pilot.

Fred Wieland kept in touch with family member of the rest of a crew for a few years after the war.

Copilot Lt. Dale R. Wilson

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Copilot Lt. Dale R. Wilson

The Copilot was Dale Wilson, born in 1921, one of five sons of Clabe and Leora Wilson of rural Minburn, Iowa. Wilsons also had two daughters, Doris and Darlene (who was Dale’s twin). Two sons served in the US Navy–Delbert and Donald. The three younger ones became pilots.

All three pilots were lost. Danny Wilson, a P-38 pilot, was KIA on Feb. 19, 1945, in Austria. Junior Wilson was killed when the engine of his P-40 threw a rod and exploded  in training on Aug. 9, 1945. Their father died of a stroke in October of 1946.

Dale Wilson’s twin sister (Darlene Wilson Scar) is still living–75 years after his loss.

Navigator Lt. John R. Stack

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Navigator Lt. John R. Stack

The Navigator, was John “Junie” Stack, born in 1922, the son of John R. (a WWI veteran) and Augusta Stack of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stacks had two daughters, Lois (who was 18 when her brother was MIA) and Patricia (who was 10). Junie, their only son, married Lt. Laura Frances Stack, any Army Nurse, at the base chapel at Greenville, SC, in April 1943.

Shortly after the bomber was lost in New Guinea, Augusta Stack lost both of her parents. After the war, their daughter-in-law lived with them for a time. John and Augusta Stack divorced in the early 1950s.

Mr. Stack wrote family member of the rest of the crew. Decades later I met a nephew of Junie Stack, the veteran political reporter Jim Ragsdale, who typed his uncle’s diary and added notes to it. I’m in contact with a son of Jim Ragsdale.

Gunner S/Sgt. Irvin E. Woollenweber

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Gunner S/Sgt. Irvin E. Woollenweber

Gunner Irvin Woollenweber, born in 1908, was the son of Louis A. Woollenweber of Wheeling, West Virginia. His mother Louise had died in 1934. Irvin was engaged to Mary Kathryn Kenney. Another son, Earl C. Woollenweber, was an aerial engineer on a B-17, killed Feb. 19, 1943, when the plane crashed on a routine flight in Kansas. Another son Jesse L. Woollenweber (1926-2002) also joined the AAF.

Radioman Sgt. Stanley W. Banko

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Radioman Sgt. Stanley W. Banko

Radioman Stanley Banko, born in 1914, was from Everson, Pennsylvania. His parents Konstant and Anna (Slota) Banko, both about 68 years old when Stanley was MIA, were immigrants from Poland. Three of their six sons served in the war. Only one came home–Paul Banko who served in Germany. Michael Banko was KIA on June 11, 1944, five days after the D-Day invasion. Daughter Ann was married to Bruncy Ludwick, a coal miner.

Gunner Sgt. Willie “Ted” Sharpton

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Gunner Sgt. Willie “Ted” Sharpton

The crew picture, taken with the plane, shows S/Sgt. Joseph E. Sidebottom from Kansas City on the right in front. He was not with the crew that November 27. Sgt. Willie Ted Sharpton was.

He was lost on his first and only mission.

Gunner Ted Sharpton, born in 1919, was the son of Essie Sharpton, a lunch-room lady in Dacula, Georgia, who had been widowed since about 1934. She had eight children–six sons and two daughters. One son was still in high school. Mrs. Sharpton wrote to Leora Wilson for decades. Even after her death, Mrs. Sharpton’s daughters, Lillie May Parker and Dollie Foster, corresponded with Leora until her death.

I am in contact with a great granddaughter of Essie Sharpton.

Only God knows where their remains lie today.

 

For more about Dale Wilson, click on his name in the tags below.

5th Air Force, 38th Bombardment Group, 823rd Bombardment Squadron.

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