Danny Wilson, Missing in Action

The 14th Fighter Group had three photo reconnaissance missions February 1, two to Munich, Germany, and one to Prague, Czechoslovakia. Danny’s thirteenth mission was most likely one to Munich because of a comment in his next letter home.

He said that they’d probably heard about our long-range bombers over Germany targets from these bases in Italy. And that the Russians had already taken quite a chunk out of Germany.

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He’d heard the news that the Americans were in Manila and had freed several thousand men from a concentration camp there. He figured that Dale had just as good a chance of being one of the men from that camp as another. News of those being freed bolstered his hopes, and knew his folks felt the same way.

Fifty-six Lightnings, including Danny’s, took off from Triolo field February 7 to escort Liberator bombers of the 304th Wing through the target, which again was Vienna oil refineries. In the target area they couldn’t find the Wing they were assigned to, so they escorted bombers from another. The formations were over the target for thirty minutes, with the inevitable flak. One of the bombers caught fire. Two others were hit by flak over Bratisava, Czechoslovakia. No chutes were seen. All the P-38s landed safely in Italy.

Two days later, Danny was one of ten who escorted two British Halifaxes to a supply dumping area at Crayon, Yugoslavia.

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And the USS Hancock sailed from Ulithi February 10 with Spruance’s Fifth Fleet, headed this time to Japan.

Danny’s combat mission February 14 was to escort B-24s on an attack of the Vienna Florisdorf Oil Refinery. There were two dozen other P-38s on the mission. Ten of them couldn’t fine the bombers they were assigned to, so they located Fortresses of the 5th Wing and escorted them instead. All of the fighters landed at their base safely.

Two days later, forty fighters escorted B-24 bombers to Dingolfing, Germany. Danny was one who after the bombing, “descended to the deck” to strafe in the Regensburg area, where they ran into bursts of flak. It. Wilson was credited with damaging a flak tower there. They also damaged or destroyed twenty-nine locomotives and several freight cars. One plane crashed after an engine caught fire. the pilot was warned to bail out. At 5000 feet the canopy came off. At 4000 feet the plane was over on its back. No parachute was seen.

Danny’s eighteenth mission was on the eighteenth, with forty-five other fighters. They were to escort the 55th Wing to Linz, Austria, but a heavy overcast caused them to turn back over Yugoslavia.

Daniel Wilson, Missing in Action

The target for the February 19 for the 14th Fighter Group was Vienna, but the bombers the two dozen fighters were escorting decided to attack the alternate target of Bruk, southwest of Vienna. A dozen of them, including Dan Wilson, have an additional mission near Graz—providing cover for an experimental skip bombing. This is similar to the skip bombing over water Dale did in New Guinea except that this done against a sixteen-car train. 

After a strafing run, Number 4 of the flight dropped back to take photos of the damage. When he pulled up over the train, the left engine was smoking. When he didn’t return to his formation, two P-38s returned to the area but find no trace of Danny’s plane.

His plane had hit a pole and crashed about two kilometers south of the railroad station at Schwanberg, Austria, in a forest along Sulm Creek in the snowy forested foothills of the Alps. According to his casualty records, the dead American “Flying Lieutenant” found in the wreck was identified by his tags as Daniel S. Wilson. Wehrmacht soldiers kept the tags but turn the body over to village officials.

The next day, a grave was dug at the edge of the Schwanberg cemetery. Daniel S. Wilson was buried in a pine box provided by the village. A service was held secretly by the local Roman Catholic priest. Attending were the bergermeister, the chief of police, and the grave digger.

Someone made a wooden cross for the new grave–in the uppermost lines, entrance on the left side–marked “Daniel S. Wilson  19.2.1945.”

At Schwanberg his death certificate, in German, was registered. And at his base at Foggia, a Missing Aircraft report was filled out for P-38 L1LO #44-24123, which carried weapons manufactured by Colt, Frigidaire, and International Harvester—companies that had retooled for war.

Two days later at their headquarters in Graz, the Wehrmacht reported the death of a member of an enemy air force, recording the place, date, serial number, name, and that two ID tags had been found on the American flyer. 

This information would be how Dan Wilson’s remains would be located over a year later. They wouldn’t learn the details of his loss and burial for four more decades. 

At Triolo field, Lt. Richard Tomlinson had typed up a report on the loss of the plane. His belongings were inventoried by a squadron Personal Effects Officer. 

And the Flight surgeon filled out another form on Dan, adding, “Good man—good pilot.”

 

 

 

12 comments

  1. I haven’t been commenting a lot because I don’t really have anything constructive to add and don’t want to be banal, but just wanted to let you know I really enjoy your Danny Wilson saga

    • Thank you for your compelling note. Keeping his history together and following those last months of the war, I’ve gotten to know him better, too. His older brother Donald was in combat in the Pacific on another aircraft carrier, and doesn’t get the word for several months. Meanwhile, my posts will turn more to the youngest brother, Junior, who came home to Iowa to celebrate earning his wings to the telegram about Danny’s loss. (You’ve noticed I haven’t commented much either lately. Surgeon happy with my progress from total shoulder replacement, now to start physical therapy. Out of the sling, I can type pretty well today, but cannot hold a pen yet. . . or feed myself!)

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