I would like to make you aware of a project that may be of great interest to your organization and many of your members.
I am the director of a non-profit initiative known as Stories Behind the Stars, under the auspices of The Greatest Generations Foundation.
The ambitious goal of this project is to collect short profiles of all of the 400,000+ US World War II fallen in one online database. There will be a smartphone app that will allow anyone visiting a war memorial or cemetery to scan the name of the fallen and get a link to automatically take them to his/her story. This will work at Arlington National Cemetery, Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, even memorials in Washington state. It will make visits to the final resting places of our World War II fallen a much richer experience. Whereas now, a visitor just sees names and dates, when this project is finished, a visit to any WWII memorial or gravesite will come with that person’s story.
As a genealogy organization, you are aware that resources online now make genealogical research easier than ever. I learned this first hand over the past three years. I have had a lifelong interest in history, and particularly enjoyed reading memoirs. After the 2016 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a lot of news coverage was given to the remaining World War II veterans. It bothered me that little attention was given to any of the 400,000+ fallen who did not come home. WWII memoirs all mentioned how much these fallen meant to a victory they did not enjoy. I decided to do something about this.
I began a daily personal passion project to start writing about these mostly forgotten heroes. Each day I wrote a profile of one of the fallen on the 100th anniversary of his/her birthday. I recorded these stories in a blog at www.ww2fallen100.blogspot.com. I shared it with various World War II groups on Facebook. Others started joining me to write these stories and there are now more than 1,200 of these short profiles, including more than a dozen from Washington (see http://ww2fallen100.blogspot.com/search?q=washington) that have been read more than one million times. The newspaper in the town where I grew up, the Pueblo Chieftain, did a story about my efforts that was picked up by many papers around the country (see https://www.chieftain.com/7070e3a4-c500-11e8-9745-33c162a7202a.html). The project was slated to end this September with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, at the encouragement of others, I decided to expand this project so that the stories of all of the 400,000+ US World War II fallen can be told.
The 400,000+ number is very daunting, but it is much more manageable for western states. In the case of Washington, WWII losses were probably around 6,000. I already have access to a database that has 5,000+ Washington related names. I just need help finding people who want to write profiles of the Washington fallen.
Ancestry.com has generously agreed to provide free access to their research tools (Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, and Fold3.com) to anyone helping me with this project.
I created the website www.storiesbehindthestars.org to promote and manage this project. Though it just barely started, I already have volunteers helping from a dozen states.
The reason I am contacting WSGS is that I am sure you know of many, many Washington residents who would be interested in helping with this project. I need volunteers to research and write the stories of these ~6,000 Washington World War II fallen. It takes less than 45 minutes to research and write the average story. I have created a YouTube page (see https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6iv4ZzBam5y_yXk546P7Fu6bEIrz9jb5) with short training videos showing how to do the research.
Can you share information about my project with your members? At this time of social distancing, I think this project would be a wonderful use of time for those with their skills.
Feel free to call or email me to move this discussion further.
Stories Behind the Stars Founder and Director