The Wilson’s 1942 Plymouth, One of the Last New Cars until after WWII

In November 1941, the Wilson sisters, Doris and Darlene, were anxious to see their brother Donald, who was home from the Navy. AWOL.

Knowing war was imminent, Don and a friend had jumped ship on the East Coast and headed for the Minburn, Iowa, farm. Don’s four brothers lived there with their folks, Clabe and Leora Wilson. Tenant farmers.

It looked like all seven Wilson siblings would be home at the same time. Their mother Leora hoped to get a family picture taken. 

Doris rode the M and St L train from Perry, where she was a waitress, to Minburn. One of her brothers met her at the depot in their “old smoking Buick.” Darlene and her husband Sam arrived from their farm near Earlham. For the family photo, everyone piled into the two cars and headed north six miles to Perry, to Edmondson’s Studio.

Ready to go to the Air Olympics in Des Moines, June 22, 1941. Danny, Junior, Delbert, and Dale Wilson, in front of the “smoking” Buick.

While still in Perry, Donald suggested trading off their old Buick on a newer car, which they did. The Wilson brothers and their dad pooled their money and bought a brand new grey, 1942 Plymouth four-door, 95-horsepower, Special Deluxe sedan, with concealed running boards.

A few days later the expected letter arrived from the Navy: Your son is AWOL. Do you know where he is?

Dale, Danny, and Clabe Wilson. USS Yorktown crewmen Frank ___ and Donald Wilson, headed back to the navy after hitchhiking to Iowa AWOL. Delbert Wilson on the end drove them to Des Moines in the new Plymouth.

Soon, after snapshots in the farm driveway, handshakes, and pats on backs, Donald and Frank turned themselves in November 17, 1941, at the Navy office in Des Moines. They were sent to the brig at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. While they were there, Pearl Harbor (where their ship had been based a year earlier) was attacked by the Japanese. The young navymen were hustled back aboard their aircraft carrier on the East Coast. Both lost rank and pay, but were soon in the thick of the war in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, at home in Iowa, the Wilsons didn’t know it would be the last photo taken of the family, and that they’d just purchased one of the last new automobiles available until after the war.


Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

16 comments

    • Only one was a Wilson brother. Frank was a friend, but his dad was a lawman in Alabama so couldn’t go there, so Iowa was the best place to “see homefolks” before the war broke out!

    • Thank you, Mike and Kellye! The rest of the story of the Plymouth will be tomorrow! I hadn’t planned on it (I usually schedule posts about a month ahead), but just got to thinking about it this morning. lump in throat

  1. Thanks for sharing that story. While they were on their adventure, my father was a senior in high school in Modesto CA, and gave a speech in his English class on why the Japanese would not attack the US. He got an A and no one in his school ever mentioned his speech again. One year later he was on a train held for Army basic training.

    • Thanks for your story about your father! While the Yorktown was based out of Pearl Harbor, Donald wrote home that we’d be at war with Japan. They folks in Iowa weren’t watching Europe, not Japan.

  2. There’s just something about cars from the 30’s through the 60’s. But, my favs come from models from the 40’s. Built to last, American quality at its best. Those guys may not have realized exactly how blessed they truly were to have those beauties. In fact, that may be why most of my favorite movies were made in the 40’s. Hugs from Dallas, Tx.

    • I totally missed getting to ride in a 1940s auto! Dad went from his 1939 Chevy (with a city/country horn) to a two-tone blue 1952 Chevy. He stuck with Chevys his entire life. After Mom was widowed she got a used Buick and made the comment that she didn’t think she could go back to Chevys!

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