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Telling The Stories Of 421,000 US World War II Fallen
by Don Milne, Founder
Stories Behind the Stars
May 26, 2022

Americans rightfully honor our aging World War II veterans as heroes. However, they would overwhelmingly tell us that the real heroes were those that did not come home from the war.

Grave markers of World War II fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery on an undisclosed date. (Photo by Don Milne, Stories Behind The Stars)
Grave markers of World War II fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery on an undisclosed date. (Photo by Don Milne, Stories Behind The Stars)

How can we honor these heroes, who gave their all ... eight decades ago?

The non profit initiative Stories Behind the Stars was created two years ago with the ambitious mission to find volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000 US WWII fallen. These stories are being saved to a common database that will allow anyone to use a free smartphone app and read these stories at any gravesite or memorial anywhere in the world.

This project would not be possible without the participation of hundreds of volunteers from all 50 states and more than a dozen other countries.

The project started out with a pilot to see if it would be possible to write the stories of all the WWII fallen from one state. Volunteers wrote the stories of all 2,106 fallen from Utah.

Next, volunteers completed the stories of all 2,502 Americans who died on D-Day and all 2,341 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor. Currently, volunteers are focusing on writing the stories of the 8,000 WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

So far, volunteers have completed more than 16,000 stories.

It takes on average as little as two or three hours to research and write a profile of a World War II hero. These stories follow an obituary format and average around 500 words, so they are easy to read at a gravesite on a smartphone.

Volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds. Some are as young as junior high school while others are retired. While many volunteers are seasoned researchers with decades of experience, most are not. Stories Behind the Stars provides training and free access to research sites like Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com.

“Basically, if you can write an obituary, you can research and write one of these short stories in as little as a couple of hours,” said project founder Don Milne of Louisville, Kentucky. “Be forewarned. This is a very addictive and enriching experience. Quite a few individuals have already written hundreds of stories.”

Stories Behind the Stars has a weekly podcast which interviews the volunteers about their experience with the project and the stories they write. You can find them here.

Writing 421,000+ stories requires many volunteers. Anyone interested in learning more can visit Stories Behind The Stars. The goal is to complete all of the stories by September 2, 2025, the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The remaining World War II veterans will be very pleased to know that all of their fallen comrades will forever be remembered.

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