Remembering the WWII Fallen
A Blog a Day
Zions Bank’s Financial Literacy Manager Don Milne has a unique pastime. Every day he writes a profile about one of the World War II fallen on what would have been their 100th birthday. His daily stories have been read by more than one million people at ww2fallen100.blogspot.com.
Every so often you hear news about an Honor Flight taking World War II veterans to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The centerpiece of the memorial is the Freedom Wall with 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 of the World War II fallen.
While we rightly honor our dwindling World War II vets, if you ask them, they would give much credit to their comrades who never came home. The Vietnam War Memorial lists the names of all the fallen, but the World War II fallen remain nameless at their memorial.
As a student of history, I thought it would be a worthwhile project to tell the stories behind the gold stars.
Profile a Day
I began writing a profile of one of the World War II fallen on his 100th birthday on Jan. 1, 2017. In more than two years, I’ve written 700-plus profiles. My plan is to continue until Sept. 2, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. It has been an enriching experience filled with many touching stories.
One is about Frank Winterling, who joined the Marines two days after Pearl Harbor. He was worried about his kid brother Joe, a Marine caught in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. Joe was later killed defending Corregidor Island. Frank was sent to Guadalcanal where he was killed a few months later when Japanese battleships shelled Henderson Field. His parents had no other children. When his 54-year-old father learned of Frank’s death, he also joined the Marines and was assigned stateside guard duty during the war.
Killed Trying to Drop Supplies
George Hutchison, another fallen vet, was a B-29 Superfortress pilot. On the day the Japanese were designated to sign surrender papers and end the war, George’s plane was out of service. He could have stayed on base. However, his unit was selected to do a flyover above Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri. Instead of joining another crew for that historic event, he responded to a request for a bomber to drop much needed supplies into a prisoner of war camp in Japan.
George joined as a third pilot, a common practice for the long flight from Saipan to Japan. After heading out, the plane developed mechanical problems and turned back. It circled the island for a few hours to burn off fuel for a safer landing. Unfortunately, the landing was not successful, and the plane broke in half. Those in the front half, including George, were killed.
It’s hard to deny that the war these fallen vets helped win created a land of prosperity unmatched in history. We owe them a big thank you for the country we have now.
This year I will be writing about those born in 1919. Anyone who knows of a World War II fallen born that year who would like to see him profiled can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.