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.