Leora Wilson’s Decision to Have Danny Wilson Buried Overseas

The survivors, October 1946: Delbert Wilson, Darlene (Wilson) Scar, Doris (Wilson) Neal, Donald Wilson (still in the Navy). Rural Perry, Iowa.

Newspaper clipping, probably from The Des Moines Register or Tribune.

Decision of Returning War Dead Put Up to Relatives

Given Time For Thought

WASHINGTON, D. C. (AP)–Should the remains of Americans who died abroad in World War II be brought home for burial?

Their families are not making a snap decision on this, but three-fourths of those the government has heard from say yes.

Congress has authorized bringing the bodies back to this country at government expense if the relatives desire.


The war department quartermaster corps sent out its first 20,000 letters of inquiry to the next of kin of soldiers, sailors and marines early in March.

So far it has had fewer than 1,000 replies. But more than 75 per cent of these want the dead to lie in U. S. ground.

Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin, the quartermaster general, is charged with the responsibility of carrying out the program. He had hoped to see it begin in August. But now it is believed it will be September or October before it starts.


This is because of difficulty in getting coffins, locating the next of kin–many of whom have moved–and the seeming indecision of the living.

That families take their time to decide–talk it over with relatives and the clergy, if desired–is approved by the war department. It is seen as a question not to be answered quickly or without thought.

America’s overseas dead in World War I totaled about 51,000, of whom nearly 60 per cent were brought home for burial.


In World War II the toll was 385,000. About 24,000 bodies have not been recovered.

The war department estimated that 80 per cent of the relatives would want remains returned. It is possible this estimate may be revised downward.

Within the next 10 days, the war department plans to release a list of those buried in Hawaii; St. Laurent, France; Henri Chapelle, Belgium; Cambridge, England; Nettuno, Italy; Gela, Sicily; and at Casablanca, Gafsa and Tunis, North Africa.

The first bodies will be brought back from these areas.

The present intention is to return first the bodies of those buried in Hawaii, the target of the first bombs to fall on American territory in the last war. A few days later shiploads will be coming from Europe.


America’s war dead have ben buried in 209 temporary cemeteries. some of these will be made into permanent resting places for those whose relatives decide against bringing them back to this country.

In this decision the war department is neutral. But a new army movie short, “Decision,” which shows a family going through the return of a loved one, seeks to warn what the strain will be.

Mrs. George Patton does not intend to disturb the grave of the colorful third army commander, who died in an automobile accident in Germany and was buried at Hamm, Luxembourg.

In a “letter to the American people” published in the Congressional Record she said, “What will come home to you isn’t what you remember and love.”

Leora had also found a clipping that stated that soldiers, if given a choice, would prefer to be buried where they fell. She’d endured two recent funerals, for Junior and for Clabe. It looked like Dale might never be found. So, talking it over with family members, she decided not to bring Danny home.

It would be decades before anyone in the family made the trip to St. Avold, France, to see his grave. (Story scheduled for December 11.)

Leora Wilson, counting some of her blessings. Grandchildren Robert Scar, Joy Neal, Donna Wilson, Leora Darlene Wilson, Richard Scar. October 1946, rural Perry.

Back: Delbert and Evelyn Wilson, Warren Neal, Grandmother Laura Goff. Front: Joy Neal, Donna and Leora Darlene Wilson, Doris Neal with Gloria. Probably spring 1947, rural Perry.

Delbert and Evelyn Wilson would later have a son, and Darlene and Sam Scar would have two more sons. Of the nine grandchildren of Leora Wilson, five are still living: Richard and Robert, Leora Darlene, Joy and Gloria.

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


    • Thank you, Sharon. These last few posts are too morbid by themselves. I was thankful to realize there were photos taken during those after-war years that show the ones Leora could still thank God for.

  1. The old photos are continually evolving in meaning as we see where we came from in light of where we are now. how history shaped us and the generations after us.

    • You know, I’m enjoying that as much as anything! I just “discovered” a 1930 photo of a bunch if kids, and when I noticed the little girls’ short haircuts, realized that I know the story behind those haircuts. One girl started out in tears, but Leora saved the say for two of them. lump in throat (next book).

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