Serendipity Talk: Death in Wartime China, A Daughter’s Discovery
On the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII, I wanted to share the story of my father, William H. (Bill) Wallace, Jr, a B-24 pilot who sacrificed his life redeeming his entire crew in 1944. He served in the China-Burma-India Theater with the Army Air Corps 308th Bombardment Group in the direct military lineage of the famed Flying Tigers. He died before I was born. I learned in 2015, somewhat by accident, a monument had been erected in 2006 to honor Bill and Chinese-American friendship near Kunming, China. In 2016, I made an emotional journey to visit the memorial. Death in Wartime China, A Daughter’s Discovery weaves together firsthand accounts from an almost forgotten theater of war and a modern journey of re-connection and reflection.
Judy Ikels, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas majoring in English and Spanish, completed a 28-year Civil Service career with the Department of State in 2018. She had accompanied her late husband Larry Ikels on his 31-year career as a Foreign Service Officer with the US Information Agency serving in El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and Greece.
The story about her father’s heroism and sacrifice in WWII lingered in the back of her mind all her life. But a serendipitous encounter in 2015 led her to a meaningful trip to China to see first-hand a memorial erected to honor her father and Chinese-American friendship. Family archives, letters, photos, and research taught her more.
Judy’s unique story first appeared in the May, 2016 edition of State Magazine, the official publication of the Department of State, under the title “Discovering a Legacy.” Death in Wartime China: A Daughter’s Discovery is a heartfelt memoir that throws a spotlight on a little-known theater of WWII and the brave young Americans who served there. It is a reminder that family history shapes us in ways large and small.
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