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.
Having started your book of Leora’s letters, I have begun to feel as though I know each one of the brothers personally. I know the finality of receiving the effects and my heart goes out to the family.
It must have been awful. I have the only things that did survive. No uniforms, but pilot logs (Dale’s is especially interesting), Pigeon English handbook, medals (for Dan–I had to ask for Dale’s), souvenirs from Rome, . . . . all the letters and telegrams.
A very moving post. How sad that Dale’s diary was destroyed.
Especially since I found a collection of them at the Truman Library! I even wrote to them, hoping Dale’s ended up there, or that they’d know where else I could search.
A very sad story. While at one level, I certainly understand the need to maintain operational security and I assume the diaries were confiscated in fear that they might contain tidbits of information that would be helpful to the enemy, but one cannot help but wonder just how justified that fear was in reality.
I would think such diaries would be a great deal of comfort, pride, or even a source of “remembering where we came from” to family members for generations, and something I think the current generation badly needs.
I think they should be released back to the families and not kept in a library somewhere. But that’s just me …
But the ones who survived, brought theirs home with them. Their families were doubly blessed. I think they would have removed Dale’s pilots log if they’d known thumbed through especially his combat missions! I’m to thankful to have those.
Tragic. Though I’m familiar with what happened to him, it still brings a tear to my eye. A great post, Joy.
Bless you. I searched for months, followed every suggestion anyone gave me. Someone said it’s probably in some warehouse, like the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” bummer
Another very moving post that feels like you’re there. The flight log proves a point. They could start to keep some like diaries ( which would be a download from a smart phone today; then erasure) and allow it to be released at a declassified. But then I feel we’re back at the aptly described end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Parked in a physical or cyber data warehouse.. forever.
Enthralled w the book, boys & your families life. I’m part way through WWII. I’d recommend recent movie “Midway” . It’s the best movie, including WWII era movies, to depict 1937 through summer 1942 in the Pacific. It has the best “feel” for how much the US was on the ropes in first 6 months of the war. The Doolittle Raid was the only up swing in morale for the US in that period but we had not beat them; only kept them from taking Port Moresby in New Guinea.
From oral interviews & vets histories from this era, I feel the movie would give you the closest to what the Wilson boys in the Pacific Navy of ’42. But that predates the heroic & tragic loss of Dale… in a final resting place known only to God.
If you follow Donald Wilson on my website, you’ll find a lot about 1942 in the Pacific–he was on THE Yorktown, and his citation and Navy Commendation Medal were as a result of being part of a salvage attempt at Midway. I’ve also read the Hoyt and Prange books about Midway. Would still like to see the movie. Bet it’s better than “Knives Out.” Went to see it because of Daniel Craig. He had a southern accent! (Didn’t work)
This is a moving post. It does seem like the diary ought to exist if it was cataloged at some point. Makes you want to go tearing through a National Archives building with a crow bar. It took me two years to get a misplaced file for a Mexican war vet, but persistence paid off. I had to go up through ranks until I got to a real problem-solver.
My best guess would be in the Kansas City area. Or wherever what remained in the Quartermaster Depot there ended up. . . . Cannot even find a history of the KC Quartermaster Depot, but certainly would like to.
I wish you luck in tracking down a solid lead!
My father-in-law was on New Guinea, but being Army, he was combing the jungle for enemy stragglers.
That must have been an awful job. Kokoda Trail? Brutal jungles.
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