Danny Wilson: We Don’t Want Any Heroes

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 (1)

 

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.

DanSisters

 

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.

 

 

 

10 comments

    • 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.

  1. 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!

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