I Didn’t Tell My Mother (poem)

I Didn’t Tell My Mother

. . . about my ride in this old plane,
like the bomber in which
her brother Dale lost his life
six decades earlier.
The B-25 rushes and roars down
much of the Des Moines runway, then lifts.
I tried to imagine Dale Wilson
in the cockpit, age 22, the copilot. . .
Aloft, engines clatter in the wind.
. . . his last mission, his thirteenth, over
the jagged Owen Stanley Mountains,
the jungles of New Guinea,
and the antiaircraft guns of Wewak,
the town named on the telegram
that would echo down long decades. . . .
The Mitchell bomber turns, growling
over Madison County farms and fields.
Too soon wheels grind down,
engines grumble lower.
. . . for the families of six young men
whose timelines on this earth
were severed when Bomber #4889
became their underwater coffin.
Tires scrunch and screech
against the tarmac,
spewing rubbery smoke
through empty windows.
This is the anniversary of the loss of Dale Wilson and five others on a mission in 1943.

Leora Goff Wilson was the mother of the Wilson brothers featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. All five served. Only two came home.

Their story is told in  Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Doolittle Tribute video, 2017.


  1. So many tears. You must have been so brave to do this knowing this was the same kind of plane that Dale flew.

    • It was so loud! You know how good Grandma was with dates. This would have been a hard anniversary every single November 27 afterwards. And the MIA telegram arrived on her birthday. Bet she remembered every difficult date along with all the good ones.

  2. I have always thrilled at the sound of those huge radial aircraft engines. A few years ago, my daughter Starr took me to the Fly-in at Oshkosh. I stood a few yards away from a B-25 as they fired up those engines, I could feel them in my gut. How very different is your perspective and feeling about that sound. Your poem clearly captures both.

  3. Yeah, I’ll bet mom would have been a bit shocked. Those old planes are fascinating, though. I’d rather explore them on the ground. I rode in a C-130 one time – noisy and uncomfortable (we were essentially cargo, not passengers).

    • None of the planes were pressurized until the B-29, the cabin and the tail, so very loud. Mom wouldn’t get on a plane because of losing those pilot brothers. She finally did. I’ll tell that story December 11.

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