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From NBC News, May 26, 2018
Time is running out to find out what happened to World War II Navy veteran Duane [sic] Roy Dreher. His son died in 2014, never knowing. His grandson is now carrying the torch for the family in their search for answers. Maybe someone out there heard a story — a rumor even — passed down through the years, of the merchant marine and father who simply vanished from Mason City, Iowa on a November day in 1955. Maybe someone will come forward after all this time and share what they know.
U.S. Navy veteran Dwane Roy Dreher, 33, went missing after last being seen around 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1955, by his father in Mason City, Iowa.
Dreher’s vehicle was found near the Winnebago River — all his belongings still inside — the following day.
According to NamUs (the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), an unconfirmed sighting of Dreher was noted around noon on Nov. 8, 1955, the same day officials located Dreher’s vehicle.
The man who may have been Dreher was said to have been walking north on South Federal Avenue in Mason City. Reports said Dreher had mentioned that he was traveling to Chicago.
Dreher — a merchant marine — was reported missing to the Mason City Police Department on Nov. 9, 1955.
Authorities dragged the river but came up empty handed. Family and friends have not seen or heard from Dreher since his disappearance.
At the time he went missing, Dreher was described as a 33-year-old white male with blue eyes, black hair, 5-foot-11 to 6 feet tall and weighing somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds. His face was described as slightly pock marked.
He was last seen wearing a blue short jacket with a zipper front, blue trousers and brown Oxford shoes. He wore no necktie, hat or cap.
NamUs reports that a DNA sample is available but not yet submitted, and that fingerprint information is available elsewhere.
Dreher, a coxswain with the United States Navy Reserve (then called the United States Naval Reserve), traveled to many countries during his convoy trips, at one point using his own ship and personal gun to down two jerry planes. He would later dedicate the two downed planes to two relatives he lost in the war.
A Mason City Globe Gazette article published June 18, 1945, announced Dreher’s return home from the “Convoy Trip to ETO.” The brief article, which contained no byline, read:
Dwane Roy Dreher, coxswain USNR, has just returned from a convoy trip during which, he reports, his ship and own personal gun got 2 jerry planes.
The trip took him to Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland and Russia.
I would like to dedicate the 2 planes we downed to my 2 relatives killed in the war,” said Dreher. They are his cousin, Lt. Robert W. Lewis, and his brother-in-law, Warren W. Wolff, seaman 2/c, both from Mason City.
Dreher reported that he had talked to some Germans, prisoners of the allies, who had said they were sorry to hear that Roosevelt had died. He was their only chance for the rehabilitation of Germany, they had said.
On a former trip his convey had got 9 subs and assisted in the sinking of the Von Tirpitz along the Norwegian coast.
Besides the places named, his convey trips have taken him to Cuba, Panama, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, Arabia and India.
~ Mason City Globe Gazette, June 18, 1945
Eight months earlier, The Globe Gazette published a short news brief Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1944, announcing Dreher’s return home from Russia — its highlights both poignant and telling:
HOME FROM RUSSIA–Dwane Roy Dreher, coxswain, is in Mason City on a 2 weeks leave, visiting his wife and family and his 5 month old baby whom he has never seen. Coxswain Dreher is back from a “long and unusual” trip to North Russia. He has brought back many souvenirs and relics from there and tells of strange and interesting customs and manner of living and hardships endured by the allies. His wife is the former Marjorie Wolff, Mason City. The family lives at 1213 6th S.W.
~ Mason City Globe Gazette, Oct. 17, 1944
Dreher’s daughter, Leanna Dreher, was just a toddler when her father went missing, and in May 1999 began using Ancestry.com message boards to see if she could uncover any further information about her father’s life. Leanna said he’d been a merchant marine, was told he’d been a good dancer and a good card player.
Leanna said a few old rumors had floated around, such as that her father may have drowned himself or that he won too much money playing cards at a local card hall. She wondered if perhaps that incident had upset somebody and resulted in foul play.
Another story she’d heard concerned a couple of guys looking for her father the night he disappeared, mad because he had been messing around with their sister.
Questions remain about the veracity of whether Dreher had planned a trip to Chicago.
Almost exactly one year prior to his disappearance, The Globe Gazette reported Dreher’s request for a marriage license in Mason City on Monday, Nov. 15, 1954.
If you have any information about the whereabouts of Dwane Dreher, please contact Lt. Rich Jensen at the Mason City Police Department at (641) 421-3636 and reference case # 52274.