In the 1920s it was a long trip to school if made on foot from a two-story “American Gothic” farmhouse near Letcher. Milo Dailey sometimes would ride a horse to the single classroom on a hillside-overlooking prairie and wagon wheel ruts. As he grew older, drove mud roads to Mitchell High School.
International politics were far from the dust bowl and depression of the 1930s. The Japanese took Manchuria; a fellow named Hitler took the government in Germany.
There was a year in college his parents couldn’t afford and the auction of a bankrupt farm.
The Daileys moved to the western Iowa town where his grandfather settled after the Civil War. There was a need for cars and Milo and his father started a repair garage that rebuilt old cars and maintained new ones.
Finally, Dec. 7, 1941, the Daileys held their breath. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
When he entered the service in 1942, Dailey was followed to stations in Alabama and South Carolina. His wife, Margaret, followed until he was sent overseas.
Where would he go? Nobody knew. But Milo and what had been an Arkansas Army national Guard unit, the 153rd Infantry, were sent to the west coast, then by Liberty Ship to Alaska – an Alaska under attack by Japanese warships, air and ground troops on the windswept Aleutian islands.
A matter of a friend meeting a friend brought word that Milo was in Alaska. He was at Fort Raymond at Seward, later on the Aleutian island of Amchitka. He’d won his marksmanship medals, but his typing ability brought him to be a chaplain’s assistant.
The Aleutians were among the world’s coldest duty stations. A U.S. Army web site today notes, “Just surviving the weather on Amchitka was a challenge.”
When he returned to the “Lower 48,” it was to posts in the Deep South where the temperatures were closer to Iraq than Alaska as he prepared to return home
He signed his own separation papers and left the Army Oct. 15, 1945, to return home to a new family and another shot at the home business.
But the chaplain’s assistant job brought a calling to the ministry, and he sold the car and motorcycle business n 1959 to return to college full time at Mitchell.
Along the way his wife died in a car crash; he married Barbara Belmont in Mitchell before heading to Cambridge, Mass., and graduate school.
After a few years as an Episcopal priest in Iowa, he returned to South Dakota as pastor of the Episcopal Church in Deadwood, then Spearfish before his “retirement” to Belle Fourche.
His change of careers was not unusual for his generation. Many returned to civilian life with skills from their military training that were obsolete before they knew it. The radio repairman, for example, found other work as printed circuit boards brought disposable televisions.
In both Deadwood and Spearfish, Dailey was involved in civic affairs. In Spearfish he was reserve police officer and acted as police chaplain.
He served on the Lookout Memorial Hospital – now Spearfish Regional Hospital – board during its expansion that brought a major building addition.
He had four children; two remain in the Black Hills.