A fighter pilot, Danny Wilson was lost
in February 1945, when his silver Lightning
dropped back to take photos
on a mission over Austria.
Danny’s last furlough home to Dallas County, Iowa,
was the spring of 1944. His picture, taken in Perry,
shows his solid jaw, broad shoulders. Confident, content.
Silver pilot’s wings against the dark uniform.
In a snowy forest in the foothills of the Alps, Wehrmacht
soldiers find a dead American flying lieutenant
in the wreckage of his forktailed devil.
Wilsons had also taken snapshots of Danny beside
the ’42 Plymouth with his sisters and holding his nephew.
Doris, her first baby due in six weeks, stood behind
Darlene and Danny so her “condition” wouldn’t show.
The airman who lost his life at Schwanberg, Austria,
in February of 1945, was identified by his dogtags,
which the Wehrmacht kept–Daniel S. Wilson.
When Danny began cadet training, Doris wrote,
“I just want you to know, whether you turn out
to be an ace or a grease money,
you’ll still be a swell brother to me.
The 37th Fighter Squadron in Italy reported his P-38 lost,
his belongings were inventories, and the flight surgeon added
to a form about Danny’s loss, “good man–good pilot.”
And Doris wrote, when she learned he had gotten
his overseas orders, “Danny, you take darn good
care of you, and get back home as soon as possible.
We don’t want any heroes in the family, just all of us home.”
At Danny Wilson’s burial were four strangers: the village inspector,
the grave digger, the bergermeister, and the Roman Catholic priest,
who held a burial ceremony for him. . . secretly.
His parents received a telegram in March 1945 notifying them
that Danny was missing in action. But they never learned the details
of his death and burial. The daughter born to Doris was the first
family member to see, fifty years later, his casualty records.
That fall, after the war was over, Danny’s grave was located
by a British Graves Registration Team, though captured German records,
in the Schwanberg cemetery. His remains were removed
and taken to France for final burial.
But Danny Wilson’s parents received no other word about him
until January 1946, when the War Department finally reported
that it had received “evidence considered sufficient
to establish the fact of [his] death.”
In a carton sent home with his other belongings, Danny’s parents
found a small New Testament. On the page with the American flag,
Danny had written, “I give everything for the country it stands for.”
All five Wilson brothers served in the war–two in the Navy,
three in the Army Air Corps. At age 21, Danny was one
of the three young pilots who never came home.
After reading your book, it’s as if I lost a brother myself. Such a wonderfully close family!
When Wilsons moved to Minburn from Dexter, the new school didn’t offer football. The Dexter coach visited Danny and parents, saying that he was such a fine player and student, that he invited Danny to live with them during his senior year! But Dan chose family over football.
Just like I’ve said – such a close-knit family!!
It is sad. War is a terrible thing and we can never repay the sacrifices of so many American families. Thinking about it sometimes depresses me.
Then I ask myself, “where would we be without those sacrifices?”
Giving your life to ensure the safety of others is a self-less act, and courageous. And, the highest level of service to humanity .
It is impossible to know everyone who has made such a sacrifice for our great nation, but we can still honor their memories.
I am grateful to them all, and their example makes me so proud to be an American!
Lump in throat. That’s why I wanted to make sure these brothers are never forgotten. Yes, where would we be? Thank you, Darren.
Marvelous writing style and tribute to a young soul.
I came to know a very young uncle through his letters, my mother’s stories about him, and meeting his best friend from combat. Thank you for your encouragement
This story is so sad. Thank you for telling it.
An amazing family, with a story that needs to be told.
I concur with the comments of your other readers.