His personal effects were shipped to his parents,
recently moved to the first place of their own
since before the Depression. A service flag with five stars
in the farmhouse window announces five sons serving.
But one of them has been Missing in Action
nearly a year, since November of 1943. Dale,
the copilot of a B-25, and his crew, lost
in New Guinea on a mission–his thirteenth.
“Clabe Wilson,” his father signed, for the carton
from the Quartermaster Depot. Inside the box,
his wife Leora finds their son’s pilot’s wings,
khaki shorts, his billfold with photos from home.
A half century later, a niece–born six months after
Dale was lost–requested his casualty file, only then
discovering what the Effects Bureau did not send on
to his parents: “1 Diary removed for duration.”
Destroyed, she was told after each request. Airmen
weren’t allowed to keep diaries. But a 38th Bomb Group
survivor, one who’d watched Dale’s plane crash
into Boram Bay, carried his home after the war.
“Dale’s plane went down right in front of us,” pilot Ed Poltrack wrote.
“Had to turn to avoid him. He hit the water, bounced
about 100 ft. in the air, and hit again sinking in no time at all.
The ship just folded up. It all seemed to happen very slowly.”
New Guinea is beautiful from the air, Poltrack wrote,
repulsive on the ground, the cellar of the world.
But decades later, Dale’s family still longed to read
about it all. . . in his own dear handwriting.
Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is the story of the Wilson family during the war. Leora was Dale’s mother.