Dale Wilson: Official Declaration of Death

War Department, The Adjutant General’s Office, Washington 25, D.C.

15 January 1946

Dear Mrs. Wilson: [Identical letter sent to Mr. Wilson]

Since your son, Second Lieutenant Dale R. Wilson, Air Corps, was reported missing in action 27 November 1943, the War Department has entertained the hope that he survived and that information would be revealed dispelling the uncertainty surrounding his absence. However, as in many cases, the conditions of warfare deny us such information

Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, provided for a review and determination of the status of each person who has been missing in action for twelve months. Accordingly, your son’s case was reviewed and he was continued in the status of missing in action as of November 1944. The law further provides that a subsequent review shall be made whenever warranted. Upon such subsequent review the making of a finding of death is authorized. 

All available records and reports concerning the absence of your son have been carefully investigated and are deemed to warrant a subsequent review of his case. Information in the hands of the War Department indicates that your son was a crew member of a B-25 (Mitchell) bomber which participated in a “strike” mission to Wewak, New Guinea on 27 November 1943. The plane was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and was seen to crash in the water one and a half miles off the shore of Cape Boram, New Guinea. After crashing into the water the plane disintegrated and the wreckage remained afloat but a short time before sinking. Observers from other planes flailed to see any survivors emerge from the wreckage. 

Since no information has been received which would support a presumption of his continued survival the Ware Department must now terminate your son’s absence by a presumptive finding of death. Accordingly, an official finding of death has been recorded. The finding does not establish an actual or probable date of death; however, as required by law, it includes a presumptive date of death for the purpose of termination of pay and allowances, settlement of accounts and payment of death gratuities. In the case of your son this date has been set as 15 January 1946.

I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending of a long period of uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation. An appraisal of the sacrifice made by your son in the service of his country compels in us feelings of humility and respect. May Providence grant a measure of relief from the anguish and anxiety you have experienced during these many months.

[Signed: Edward F. Witsell, Major General, Acting The Adjutant General of the Army]


That same day, in Europe, a British report of the location of burials of American deceased was sent from the First Field Headquarters to the Commanding General. Two days later, Danny’s MIA status was changed to KIA. 



The original service flag of the Clabe and Leora Wilson family has been donated to the Dexter Museum. The family lived at Dexter for several years before moving to Minburn to manage a farm there. The blue stars symbolize a family member in active service. The gold ones mean family members who were lost.

 Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook, also as an audiobook, narrated by Paul Berge.

It’s the story behind the Wilson brothers featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. All five served. Only two came home.


  1. How gut wrenching it must have been to receive such a notice! And multiplied thousands of families did. Thank you for sharing this piece of history. May it cause many of your readers to even more highly value the sacrifice made by so many families in this country.

  2. Tears, Joy. I never read one of those letters of notification. I’ve never seen that particular flag either. I know some hang such in the windows. Did they do that in those days as well? – Alan

    • Yes, even during WWI. Three of Leora’s brothers were drafted in 1918. When Leora couldn’t find a 3-star service flag in 1943, she used her mother’s from WWI.

  3. Such a moving post. I can only imagine what it must be like to receive such a notification. I was reminded of the scenes in We Were Soldiers where the poor cab driver was tasked to deliver notices like these during the war in Vietnam. While just a movie, it clearly illustrated what an emotionally devastating situation that would. Thank for sharing, Joy. And for your family’s sacrifice. Too many American families have experienced exactly this in the defense of freedom.

  4. We are blessed by the service of these great men. There are no words for how tragic it is…in our hearts we must remember the sacrifice they made for this great land of ours. It is important to remember…especially now in the times we find ourselves.

  5. I can’t imagine what that letter- and word about Danny- meant to your family 😞. Thank you for sharing these memories of your family’s sacrifces.

  6. As I finished reading the General ‘s letter and thought about the effect it must have had on the Wilson family, I recalled a line from Emily Dickinson’s poem “A Formal Feeling Comes”: “This is the hour of lead.”

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