Engineer/Crew-Chief, Sergeant Wesley Holstlaw
We have made contact with Wesley Holstlaw's wife Dorothy, his sister Mrs Blanche Hjerpe, and his brother Arthur. They have all been most helpful in giving us information about Wesley. Local newspapers in Luka have also been generous with their information.
Wesley was born in Luka, approximately 70 miles east of St. Louis Illinois, on April 9th. 1912. Luka is a small farming community of about 350 people. His mother was dead at the time of the crash, and his father Daniel Ernest Holstlaw died in 1947.
To his school mates he was known affectionately as "dobbin' and was obviously most popular with them all. Wesley played on his local high school basketball team.
Before entering the United States Air Force on November 13th. 1942 Wesley had spent five years as a machine operator with the Del Monte Canning Company, in Alameda, California. He departed on November 27th. from Baer Field, Indiana, for Overseas duty.
In his last letter home before his death he said "Keep you chin up, I'll be back before you know it". He was never to return home and he was first reported missing in action on December 21st. 1943. Following his death a Memorial Service was held for him on April 9th. 1944 in the Methodist Church, Luka. The Piano Prelude to the Service included "Killarney", and "Where the River Shannon Flows".
We have been advised by the Albert Simpson Historical Research Centre in Alabama, that the burial file for Holstlaw is empty. Our early research on this crew member was complicated by the fact, that there were possibly two other spellings of his name in Army records - Holstlay and Holstaw.
During our research we have been able to examine correspondence which passed between The Legation of the United States of America, in Dublin and Daniel Holstlaw, Holstlaw's father. This confirms many of the details of the crash which we had already established from other sources. The correspondence also confirms that the crew of the C-47 died instantly.
It is appropriate to record here the support given to the families of the crew following the crash,. by Maude Wellings of Killarney, Co. Kerry. Up to November 1945 she was still in correspondence with Wesley's father. We have examined some of the letters which passed between Maude and. the next of kin, and it is obvious that her letters were of great comfort in the circumstances. Following the funerals of the crew in Killarney, she wrote the following lines.
Mothers! We wept for you as they went by,
Those valiant hearts who gave up life, so High
Upon the mountain top.....Their Calvary
Christ's Mother saw her Son nailed to the tree.
Mothers! We wept and fervently did pray
That God may turn Your night into His day.
Our hearts go out to you in your great loss,
But those will wear the crown who bear the loss.
Here in Earth's fairest spot they lie at rest,
They gave their all for Right. .. these are God's best.
(To their Mothers! in commemoration for the five U.S. airmen who lost their lives near Killarney, Eire, by Maude Wellings, Killarney, Eire).