Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii
December 7, 1941. In a gold waitress uniform, Doris Wilson served Sunday dinner to the after-church crowd at McDonald’s Drug store in Perry, Iowa. A hint of Evening in Paris perfume permeated the store, where it was also sold. Doris worked at the soda fountain there, but after church on Sundays, she was kept busy in the restaurant section.
Sammy Kaye’s Sunday Serenade provided background music over WHO Radio. A news bulletin interrupted the music: The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
The restaurant grew quiet. “The Japs? Why would they bomb Pearl Harbor?” someone asked.
“Does this mean we’re at war?”
“Where is Pearl Harbor anyway?” asked another.
“Hawaii,” Doris said. “I’m afraid this does mean war. And my brothers are all the wrong ages.”
“How many brothers do you have?”
“Five. Donald is already in the Navy. His ship was stationed in Pearl Harbor a few months ago. He said we shouldn’t trust the Japanese, and he was right.”
Thank God Donald had jumped ship a couple of weeks earlier to return to the Minburn farm to see the family. With war breaking out for real, who knew when they’d all be together again?
And thank God Danny was too young to be drafted, and Junior was still in high school at Washington Township School. But Delbert would probably be recalled by the Navy, and Dale had already registered for the draft. Donald wasn’t safe in the Atlantic either. Doris feared for all five brothers.
The family photograph taken at Edmonson’s Photo in Perry while Donald was home, eighty years ago, was the last one ever taken. It was the last time the whole family was together. Soon, Delbert was back in the Navy, and Dale joined the US Army Air Force as a cadet.
In just a few months, Donald Wilson, on the crew of the famous USS Yorktown, would be in major battles with the Japanese in the Pacific, barely escaping with his life.
One by one the Wilson brothers volunteered until all five had left the Minburn farm to serve in the war.
President Roosevelt had made a prophecy back in 1936, “There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”
He was right. And so was Doris’s premonition.
That generation of the Wilsons, having endured poverty during the worldwide Depression, was destined to suffer the anguish of losing three brothers during a world war.
Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is the family’s WWII story, and also the story behind the five Wilson brothers who are featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa.