The youngest Wilson brother, Junior, could hardly wait to get away from the Iowa farm, but kinda changed his tune by the end of this letter home:
College Detachment, Stillwater, Oklahoma–Fall 1943
“I am no longer a private! I’m officially an Aviation Student.
“We had to be quarantined for a week when we arrived in Stillwater. At least until a doctor could look us all over. We are confined in our barracks now. The officer here said that Stillwater was one of the cleanest towns in the U.S. “No ‘professionals’” is how he put it. I think you know what I mean.
“All the boys are a clean bunch now. Since we are all prospective officer material, it’s all “Mister So-and-So.” No more “Soldier,” or “Hey Joe.” The officers call us gentlemen, not just men. We sure have to be polite and courteous. Saluting has to be just right.
“Say, if you have an extra shoe stamp, can you buy me a pair of dress shoes? Plain toe, brown, size 10 ½. I like the lace type with slick leather. I think I left a $20 or two in your pocketbook, Mom. I can’t dance in a pair of G.I. shoes!
“I saw quite a few John Deeres on my way up from Texas. It sure made me wish I was back on it at home. How is the tractor running, Dad?”
Preflight, San Antonio, Texas–Spring 1944
“Well, I’m getting farther away from home with every move I make. We had to be in quarantine for fifteen days when we got here. We filled our time with physical training, drills, and guard detail.
“I’ll bet Iowa is really getting pretty this time of year. You can smell it, see it, and feel the spring and summer in Iowa, but you can’t in the southwest. San Antone is a wide-open, dirty city. There’s dives, holes, joints, and dens all over the place. I went to the Alamo once and they turned it into a beer joint. It sure is a money-grabbing place. They display the Texas flag much more than the Stars and Stripes.
“I passed advanced flying and am officially an aviation cadet. I am beginning to see the things Dale and Dan went through. If I fail any tests now, I’m washing out. They used to just send you back a class. I’ll probably be a gunner before long.
“After the war I might become a physical educator, along with flying, farming and a few other occupations. Ha!
“Dad, I hope you are getting along okay with the farming. I sure wish I could be back on the John Deere helping you.”
Junior’s older brother, B-25 copilot Dale, had been Missing in Action at Wewak, New Guinea, since November, with five others. They’d gotten news from people who listened to shortwave radio that Dale had been named as a Japanese POW
“I’m glad to hear that Dale is still alive. I don’t like the stories I read of the things happening near Wewak. I hope they are feeding him at least a bowl of rice a week. You and I know he will come out of this okay. If anyone can, it’s Dale.”
Primary Training, Curtis Field, Brady, Texas–June to September 1944
75 Years Ago
“I started to fly here at Curtis Field. I like it better every time I go up. It’s fun to fly low, see shadows of the mesquite bushes, and fly over cattle country. They treat the cadets like gentlemen here, but the washout rate is pretty high. All I can do is try hard and do my best.
“The officers are swell here and the chow is pretty good. I can have all the milk I want for breakfast. I sure would like to sink my tusks into an ear of sweet corn dripping with butter. We get canned corn about every dinner, but it is dark and tastes a lot like a tin can.
“I went to a rodeo. They probably had some pretty good shows in the good-ol’ days. Texans think they are hot stuff when they put on their boots and get on a horse. If you are from Texas, you’re a hero!
“I sure hope the war will be over in another year. I read in the official Air Force magazine that Wewak has been in our hands for quite a while. We put an air-blockade around Wewak and the Japs had to evacuate. I surely hope they didn’t starve the prisoners.
“Don’t you folks work too hard during the hot weather, now. Be sure to eat lots of greens and drink plenty of water.”
That August, Dad flew to Iowa and drove Mom and me to Texas in their C-39 (1939 Chevy). They stopped at Brady to see Junior, who was playing basketball. Doris recognized him from his good build. He reported home that Doris insisted on hugging him, even though he was all sweaty, and that I was a cute baby and had smiled at him.
Basic Training, Greenville, Texas, and Waco, Texas–September to December, 1944
“I soloed in the BT-13. This plane makes more noise than any other. I like a lot of noise.
“There’s a lot of good food here at Basic. Lots of greens, fruit, and milk. I have a pint of milk at every meal, and even some 100% bran for breakfast once in a while. I also keep busy working out with some barbells.
“How is the new place coming? I sure wish I could come home and get a good hunting trip in. Hopefully in February. A hind leg of a young squirrel would taste like ice cream compared to some of the Army chow I’ve eaten.
“You may have read this in the newspaper, but the whole cadet program is being delayed five weeks. All the way from Pre-flight to Advanced. There isn’t as much demand for pilots anymore.
“The Post Commander promised we would get some flying in an Advanced trainer, so it won’t be so bad after all. I’ll have over a hundred hours of Basic and will be a better pilot with more ground school and flying.
“I hope to be graduating in April. Maybe I’ll be home to help put the garden in this spring.
“Try not to worry and work too hard.”
As the pictures and letters attest to, Junior Wilson certainly matured during those short two years after high school.
I have a collection of letters between my grandparents during the war. Similar kinds of things.My grandfather was in the Army and my grandmother was home raising their son (my father). I want to do something with those letters some day. They are very touching to read.
I’ve ordered your Serpents Underfoot. (Amazon says it’s to arrive tomorrow.) Will review when I’ve read it.
Why thank you! I hope you enjoy it!
The letters to home sure show an interesting side to things. This is the stuff so often missed in the history books. History is about dates and events rather than people like it should be.
Thanks for the share, Joy.
Like–you can’t dance in GI shoes!
His descriptions of San Antonio and Texas, in general, are a hoot!
Iowans don’t appreciate the state until they’ve lived somewhere else.
My goodness, what a great story.
I think Junior looked the most like your dad, who was 10 years old when Junior was born.