Monday, May 28, 2018

9 Questions about the WW2 Fallen 100 Project - 3/4 of a million views

National WWII Memorial photos taken by author.
The WW2 Fallen 100 Project started on January 1, 2017. Since then it has profiled more than 500 of the fallen on the anniversary of their 100th birthdays. This last week it surpassed 750,000 views.

Thank you to all who have taken an interest in these stories and have shared them with others. I think it is important that living Americans recognize the freedoms we enjoy today are only possible because these men and women selflessly served and paid the price that resulted in victory for world peace.

Here are a couple of examples that inspire:


  • Arthur Barton Cross, the subject of the excellent book, The Jersey Boys, who spent nearly the three years as a POW in the Philippines.
  • Clarence Aaberg, a B-17 pilot who saved his whole crew at the cost of his life. All of them survived the war.


  • Here are nine questions answered about this project.

    1. What is the purpose of the WW2 Fallen 100 project? More than 400,000 Americans lost their lives while serving in the military during WW2. Our nation had one-third of the current population back then, so comparably that would be like seeing 1,200,000 war casualties in our day. That would be a big deal now. We should recognize that it was a big deal then and time should not diminish the impact.

    Because these fallen never came home, they missed enjoying the peace they won. The Freedom Wall at the World War 2 Memorial helps us honor these men and women as a group. Each of the 4,048 starts represents 100 of the fallen. However, unlike the Vietnam War Memorial, no names are displayed. I think they deserve some individual recognition. So each day I profile one of the fallen on his/her 100th birthday -- telling the stories behind the stars.

    Not to take anything away from those who made it home, but if you read any memoirs of the WW2 veterans, they always say something along the lines that it was those who did not come back that are the true heroes and they think of them all the time.

    It is well worth that the rest of us come to know these fallen.

    2. How did you get interested in starting this project? I've had an interest in history that goes back to early childhood. During elementary school, I was attracted to biographies. I remember reading youth biographies of Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and others. While still in grade school, I saw the movie Patton and wanted to learn more. The movie was based on the book A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley. Even though it was not written for grade schoolers, I checked it out of the library anyway and read the whole thing. I went on to read Cornelius Ryan's books The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far. Over the decades, I would guess that I have read at least half-a-dozen books each year that cover WW2 subjects. With the 75th anniversary of American's involvement in WW2, it seemed like this would be a fun project to create.

    3. Is there a connection between the fallen and any current generation? The generation that did most of the fighting was born between 1901 and 1924. In the book The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, the authors identify this group as a Hero Generation. Strauss and Howe see history as occurring in cycles of four generations. The circle has come around again and those currently identified as the Millennial Generation are also Hero Generation. Will they leave a similar legacy as this previous Hero Generation? Let's hope so.

    4. How do you decide which of the fallen get profiled? I mostly use Ancestry.com and start with Headstone Applications for Military Veterans. Not all of the fallen have this record, but it is the best source for finding which unit he or she served in. Next I match up the names with findagrave.com which is another great source, often created by family of the fallen. There are usually around 20 or so names to pick from each day. I try to vary the branch of the military so readers see profiles of Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, and Marines. I use census records, enlistment records, military history websites, and Newspapers.com to find the details needed to flesh out each story.

    If you know any of the WW2 fallen who were born from 1918 through September 2, 1920, let me know and I will schedule to profile them on their 100th birthday. Email me at ww2fallen100@gmail.com.

    5. How long will the project last? It started on January 1, 2017 and will continue until September 2, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2.

    By the time I have finished I will have profiled about 1,500 of the fallen. That is only enough to account for 15 of the 4,048 stars from The Freedom Wall, but I hope they can stand for those that I didn't profile. Of course there is nothing stopping others from also doing the same and taking the time to write some profiles. It is an enriching pastime.

    6. Do you have a personal connection to the WW2 fallen? My wife's uncle served in the army during the last year of the war. He died in the Philippines in an plane crash. He was only 20 years old. He never had a chance to raise a family of his own.

    7. What kind of response have you received? Some of the families of the fallen have contacted me to express appreciation for sharing their stories. This includes some siblings who are still alive. A common response is that people look forward to reading these profiles each day, it's addicting in a good way. Many are deeply moved by the sacrifices these young men made: in many cases they knowingly gave their lives to save others or accomplish their mission. I am particularly thankful to The Greatest Generations Foundation which has provided help to cover my research costs.

    8. What are some of the things you have learned? Although I would guess I know more about WW2 than 99% of the people out there, I have learned a lot, mostly because the history books usually don't focus on the individual soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

    I was surprised to see that there were thousands of men killed in non-combat air crashes, four decades after the Wright brothers, air flight was still far from safe.

    There are a lot of things that get missed by most history books. For example, I was surprised to learn that the Germans sunk a transport ship in the Mediterranean that took more American lives than were lost on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor - and it was sunk by a cruise missile! The Allies covered it up so the Nazis would not know about the effectiveness of this new technology. It would be decades before the story came out.

    It wasn't really a surprise, but the project showed the families of the fallen came from all over the world. I have profiled men who were one or two generations removed from just about every country in Europe, plus Mexico, China, and even Japan (the US Army soon discovered the Nisei were among the best soldiers around). America welcomes all people to enjoy the blessings of freedom. These men fought for America, though many could barely call it their home.

    9. How can I keep up with WW2 Fallen 100? Join the Facebook group, WW2 Fallen 100. Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100. I would like to see support grow over time.

    Please pass on a link to these stories to those who you think would enjoy it.

    Don Milne
    Bountiful, Utah
    Memorial Day, May 28, 2018

    I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.


    WW2 Fallen 100 is supported by

    The Greatest GENERATIONS Foundation

    “Where Every Day is Memorial Day”

    1 comment:

    1. Thank you for starting this project, I am sure it means a lot to the family of the fallen

      ReplyDelete