The Story of Love and Loss For An Iowa Family During WW II
by Joy Neal Kidney … with Robin Grunder
The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters. Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby. Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.
“Joy lets us see her grandmother’s personal family correspondence through letters. It is heart-tugging. Be ready to be moved by this true story.” –Van Harden, WHO-Radio Personality
Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports, and telegrams. Active on her own website, she is also a writer and local historian. Married to a Vietnam Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa. Her nonfiction has been published in The Des Moines Register, other media, and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” She’s a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.
My thoughts …
In Leora’s Letters, Joy Neal Kidney provides her readers with a genuine and heartfelt glimpse into the life of an American family during one of our nation’s most trying times. Five Wilson brothers leave their family farm in Iowa to serve their country during WW II, two in the Navy, and three in the Army Air Corps.
Through a well-crafted combination of letters, photographs, and narratives, Joy Neal Kidney draws you in and makes you feel like a member of the family. I found myself caught up in the daily experiences of all five young men and hoping each of them made it home safely. Unfortunately, war is never that kind.
Leora’s Letters is more than a story about one family’s sacrifice. It is a story about America and the kind of people who helped to forge this great nation. Our nation owes Clabe and Leora Wilson and their family a debt it can never repay. However, in reading this incredible story, perhaps we can regain a sense of what kind of people Americans were, and hopefully again, will be.
Do yourself a favor and read this book!