There are some women I meet through military records that I wish I could travel back in time and speak with. To hear their stories, their frustrations. Hold space for them to grieve, be angry, or whatever is required in those moments. Women I wish I could say something along the lines of ‘This is WHY you didn’t get the information and this is what you should have been told.’ Strong women who spoke out, spoke their truth, pushed the boundaries and demanded answers. Powerful women. Men are not the only ones who matter in society, despite the programming for centuries.
Recently about a dozen IDPFs whispered to me to look them. It is always interesting when the files speak because I know I am about to learn new things and share new stories. In one file, Charles Walby, the writing of a German Mayor also spoke to me as the letter he wrote to Charles’ grieving mother was similar to things I have experienced as a medium or soldier whisperer. Charles’ mother Dorcas was also a force of nature. An inspiration.
1st Lt Charles Walby
Charles Walby was born 27 December 1921 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He moved to Chicago, Illinois prior to 1940. He registered for the Draft on 16 February 1942 while working at Inland Steel Company Indiana Harbor Works. His next of kin was listed as Mrs. E.K. Walby, residing at his address 4728 Kenwood Avenue, Chicago.
On the 1940 Census, Dorcas, his mother is listed as M (married) with a slash through it. It is unclear if she was a widow or divorced. Charles, age 18, was living with her then along with Charles’ sister Dorella, age 13. A quick search did not yield a 1930 census.
He became a 1st Lt. in the 8th Air Force, 91st Bombardment Group, 322nd Bombardment Squadron.
Prior to this he qualified as a pilot in February 1943. Then he attended Blackland Army Flying School in Waco, Texas (April 1943). From there Pyote Army Air Force Base in Texas (May 1943). Then to Dyersburg, TN (July 1943).
On 20 July 1944, Charles was hit by a 20mm shell from a German FW 190 while flying the plane and was killed. He did not have a chance to bail out. Ernest Keene, Radio Operator Gunner also did not bail out. Both men were burned.
His IDPF provides a lot of information in its 288 pages. This includes testimony of the Mayor of Vielau and the details about the recovery and arrest of the men in the bomb crew who survived the crash and those who did not. Graves Registration Service included a map of where Charles’ remains were discovered.
He was temporarily buried in a civilian cemetery in Vielau, Germany before being disinterred by Graves Registration Service and moved to the Ardennes Cemetery in Belgium for identification.
Charles’ remains were returned to the U.S. on the USAT Haiti Victory. From the port in New York, his remains traveled by train to Illinois. He was buried on 29 June 1949 at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
It is interesting and important to note that Dorcas put memorial notices in the obituary section of the newspaper for a few years. These are great tools to help you piece together your service member’s history.
No mention of his father was found in initial searches. He is also not mentioned in the Armistice Day Service in 1945 at Kenwood Church.
Dorcas Pushed Boundaries
Dorcas was a secretary according tot he 1940 census. Based on the letters in Charles’ IDPF, she did not appear to be a woman who just accepted what she was told in standard form letters. Nor did she just accept that her son was out there somewhere in Germany and no one had located his remains. She held out hope that he was still alive even though everything indicated he was not.
Dorcas contacted Senators and began writing letters to obtain information on her son. She even went so far as to write the Mayor of the village of Vielau, Germany, where the plane crashed. Pages 118-120 of his IDPF are the Mayor’s response. While his response may seem too “woo woo crazy” for some, it resonated with me. In August 2015 a Dutch friend shared a video he took of Lommel German Cemetery in Belgium. Even across the ocean, those war dead spoke to me. I began channeling similar things as the Mayor. The dead do not sleep and they do roam at night seeking some peace, forgiveness, and desperately wish to go home.
Dorcas made sure to keep inquiring about monies Charles had and his personal effects. Personal effects are something almost every family wanted back. There are many letters in the file about these efforts. Near the end of the file you will find telephone conversations between Dorcas and others about the details of her son.
Not all effects were sent home and I have seen afew instances where the family was so distraught that they did not want the effects or to have the remains shipped home.
I appreciate Dorcas’ strength and willingness to push boundaries. In most cases, women received standard form letters. Those with little education, no money, no connections rarely got the kind of information Dorcas received. You see the same with men in these files. The ones with no education, money and connections rarely get information. Although sometimes when you just push back, the answers come.
I plan to research a little more about Dorcas and Charles, although I’m not sure I will find much based on the searching I’ve done, to really tell me who they were. I can find the basics – census, vital records, education, but who were they?
Do you have strong women in your family? Have you looked for the hidden women in your military records or have you only focused on the man’s story?
Read Charles’ IDPF
Read Charles’ IDPF. Pay particular attention to pages 105, 107-109, and 118-120.
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