As a seventeen year old boy, Wilhelmina native Delbert Dees joined the Navy. It was 1942 and the United States had only recently entered W.W. II.
Dees' time in combat was short but eventful. He was assigned to duty on the heavy carrier the U.S.S. Chicago. The ship was part of Task Force 16 escorting troops to Guadalcanal, an island northeast of Australia. Near Rennell Island, Japanese torpedo bombers attacked the ship with two torpedoes. On January 29, 1943, the ship was disabled. Dees was injured with the second explosion.
While being towed, the ship once again went under attack. Four more torpedoes were fired into the ship by the Japanese. This resulted in the ship's sinking. Within nineteen minutes, the ship had sunk and along with it sixty-three men. For around an hour Dees floated in the Pacific Ocean wearing a life preserver. The survivors were picked up and those wounded were taken to a military hospital.
This was the second time the Chicago was damaged while in battle.
For the next several months, Dees spent his time recuperating in hospitals. On September 11, 1944, Dees was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy. Dees received a battle star and a purple heart for his service.
By February of 1945, Dees had married a grade school classmate, Louise Mayberry. The two went on to have three sons, one of whom followed his Dad's footsteps, joined the Navy and served in Vietnam.
In 1960, the family moved to California were Dees installed banking equipment. In 1967, they moved back to Missouri and made their home in Malden. Since that time the couple has owned several local businesses.
The couple has two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.