About the Project
During World War II a banner with a gold star was presented to the families of the fallen.
The Stories Behind the Stars Initiative was created to organize one central digital location to collect the stories of the 400,000+ Americans who were killed during World War II.
These stories will be digitally linked to all war memorials and cemeteries by a smartphone app so visitors can read the stories of the fallen.
This national effort, researched, written, and financially supported by all those who want to see the fallen remembered, will ensure that future generations will be able to learn about each of the Americans who paid the price for the freedoms we take for granted every day.
I have been asked to answer the question, what is the genesis behind “The Story Behind the Stars” project?
Back in December 2016, I was seeing a lot of stories in the news related to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. As a lifelong World War II buff, it always bothered me a little that such stories always paid homage to the lost heroes, but invariably never mentioned any of them. Around this same time, I got a membership to Ancestry.com. I was drawn to the military records section and after snooping around, I came to the realization that there was sufficient information readily available to find out a lot of details about nearly all of these fallen heroes.
Since my children had either all moved out or were low maintenance teens, and since my golf score looks like a pretty good bowling score, I decided I would make a pastime of researching about the American World War 2 fallen. I decided on the format of finding one person each day on the 100th anniversary of his or her birthdate. My goal was to continue writing these stories until the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020.
I set up a blog to share these stories at www.ww2fallen100.blogspot.com. I set up a companion Facebook group and started sharing these stories on other World War II related Facebook groups. Within a few weeks, I was getting more than a thousand readers every day and within months I was regularly getting 3,000 readers every day with sometimes more than 6,000 daily readers. The haunting stories of the fallen were striking a chord with many people.
After 18 months these stories had been read more than one million times. I was on pace to reach 3 million reads by the time the project finished. Unfortunately, Facebook decided to shadowban my posts in October 2018 so that traffic dropped 80%. Turns out Facebook was none too happy to have 1 million people get redirected to a non-Facebook page.
Despite the disappointing treatment from Facebook, the daily writings have always been fascinating and well worth the effort. It never got old to find another story about World War II fallen -- as a group, they are a microcosm of the America of the mid-20th century. Highly representative of rural and blue-collar America, coming from large families, and usually with less than 12 years of education.
They also reflected the vast, diverse melting pot that is America. Barely a few days went by without one of the fallen being an immigrant, a child of an immigrant, or a grandchild of immigrants. They came from dozens and dozens of countries to live the American Dream and tens of thousands from these immigrant families gave their lives for their adopted land.
In the fall of 2018, I had to cut back on my daily stories of the fallen because I needed more time to study for my Certified Financial Planner exam (I passed!). A couple of blog readers, Christopher Prough and Bob Fuerst stepped to pick up the slack. After I was able to return to full time writing Bob decided to keep contributing every week. Honestly, his profiles are better than mine. I realized that writing the stories of the fallen is something others could enjoy.
With about a year to go in my project, I made the announcement that I would be finishing up in September 2020. I heard back from many people that they would like to see the project continue. I did the math and it would take me 1,109 years at one a day.
I recognized that with enough help, this project could be completed in a lot less time. With the help of many like-minded individuals, I have been able to create this Stories Behind the Stars initiative. Phase one is happening right now. I have invited anyone who wants to help to get involved and help to research and write the stories of the fallen. America was involved in World War 2 for about four years. I think we can finish this part of the project in this amount of time or less.
Phase two will be the development of one or more smartphone apps that will allow anyone to scan a World War II memorial or gravesite and get a link to read the story of that fallen hero.
This project deserves to be finished before we lose the last of those who served America in World War II. Let us leave them with the knowledge that their friends they lost so many years ago will never be forgotten.
Founder and Director, Stories Behind the Stars