What a poignantly satisfying book.
Having been through a similar search for a young uncle, also a P-38 pilot based at Foggia, Italy. My research was done before the Internet became the robust thing it is today, so all my connections were made through the mail.
By the time I read Finding Billy, I searched the internet in order to contact the author, only to learn she’d died in 2009. But she left this incredible legacy–her uncle’s story, the solving of the enigma of his loss, and leaving an an admirable account of it, complete with pictures, the Mission Report of William O Wisner’s loss, drawing of a P-38, the Search Report, list of resources, and even an index.
Diana Thompson Dale, a graduate of the University of Kansas, retired from her position at Denver’s Rocky Mountain News to concentrate on a family history project, which led to the publication “Finding Billy: An Internet Odyssey.” Her tireless efforts resulted in the identification of the remains of her uncle, William O. Wisner, a World War II P38 pilot who had been listed as missing for more than 50 years.
When charming, handsome Billy Wisner’s P-38 fighter plane disappeared over the Italian Alps in 1944, all the U.S, government would tell his mother was that he was ‘missing, presumed killed.’ Heartbroken & frantic, she wrote letters to everyone she could think of but never got the answers she was looking for. She died years later, still desperate to know.
Fifty-six years after Billy vanished, his niece, Diana Dale, took advantage of the instant communications miracle of the Internet & discovered tantalizing clues to her uncle’s fate. A government memo written in 1952 said Billy’s ID bracelet and some remains had been found, a fact never revealed to Billy’s family. But where? Why? How?
The mystery deepened when Dale found that the government had lost the file bearing the answers. Reaching across cyberspace, she found & enlisted the help of a far-flung network of strangers who dedicated themselves to finding Billy.
The group’s only connection was the Internet, and their story shifts back and forth across the Atlantic.
Diana Dale’s parents commissioned this memorial plaque in 2002 to honor Dale’s uncle, William O. Wisner, a U.S. pilot whose plane disappeared over Italy during World War II. It’s displayed next to the stream that flows down from Billy’s crash site in the Italian Alps.