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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

Meet the writers who told the Pearl Harbor fallen stories

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

More than 100 volunteers helped with the first ever project to write stories of each of the 2,335 Pearl Harbor fallen. Below, a few of these volunteers share their experience.

"I joined you in this journey because of my uncle's service with the 743rd Tank Battalion. With the D-Day project it was fairly easy for me to participate because the 743rd was one of the tank battalions that led the assault on Omaha and Utah Beaches.

Pearl Harbor, however, was something different. I grew up learning about the attack on Pearl Harbor, that a number of ships were lost in that attack, and that that act of aggression brought the US into WWII. Incidentally, I also grew up knowing that my parents were married on 7 Dec 1941.

When I started tackling the stories of the Fallen Sailors, I had to shift my thought process from Army to Navy. I found that the Navy didn't do the same things as the Army, the Navy kept records in a completely different style. and while there were some tankers and infantry personnel that were listed as "nonrecoverable" the vast majority of those lost at Pearl Harbor died on the same day and are still unidentified.

I have a greater understanding of what these men faced when deciding to join in protecting our country, what they left behind to accomplish their quest, the sacrifices they and their families made, and their dedication to "A Greater Cause" in what they were willing to give.

I am proud to be a small part of telling their stories.

- Steve Booth, Utah, 15+ Pearl Harbor fallen stories

"My maternal grandparents were both veterans of WWII. When they passed away, I inherited all of their wartime photographs, correspondence, uniform patches, and ephemera, including the newspaper that landed on my grandmother’s doorstep in Los Angeles the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, with an ‘explosive’ headline splashed across the front page.

"Though neither of my grandparents were yet serving in the military on that fateful day, and both survived the war, that artifact still holds a special place in my collection and in my heart. When I learned of the Stories Behind the Stars’ Pearl Harbor fallen project from a genealogy podcast, I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of researching, capturing, and recording the legends of the heroes who never made it home to their loved ones.

"By publishing each serviceman’s story, I feel we are honoring their life, their memory, and their sacrifice."

- Kira D. Foltz, California, 5+ Pearl Harbor fallen stories

"I had been trying to get a sports journalist friend of mine to look into writing stories for the fallen when the Covid-19 work at home began and his coverage of sports was not keeping him as busy. I told him I thought it would be such a fulfilling experience to shed a brighter light on a life that had been lost to protect our freedom. A couple of months later I retired from my health career after thirty-nine years and I realized all those same sentiments I was saying to my friend pertained to me. I find joy in learning about military peoples’ lives at the time our country needed them to step forward. I feel it has been a profound honor and privilege to write each and every story I’ve done so that hopefully their lives and sacrifices are not forgotten.”

- Kim Hardaway, Tennessee, 7+ Pearl Harbor fallen stories

"Genealogy is my passion. I am so proud to have found multiple folks in my direct family line that have served in the military during all of the various war times from the Revolutionary War to current day.

"After receiving an email from regarding the Stories Behind The Stars project for WWII fallen, I started with someone with a family name, which ended up being a long lost cousin. Then I started working on the list from my local county. I fell in love with this project. When the Pearl Harbor project started, I was excited to help out.

"It has been very fulfilling doing the research and writing about these men, each with their own unique story and most dying about the same age as my grandson is now. My heart aches knowing what their families went through. This is the very least I can do to honor them! Thank you for this great opportunity!"

- Kathy Harmon, Pennsylvania, 60+ Pearl Harbor Fallen stories

"I became aware of the Pearl Harbor Project through an article in the Sarasota (Florida) Herald Tribune. My Dad was a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Korean conflict. I'm a three-star Blue Star Mom of Navy and Army veterans and a copywriter by trade, so the task was a match.

"I am currently writing stories about servicemen who were aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. The story of each U.S. service member deserves to be told -- in recognition of their bravery and selflessness and to remind every American to always remember and be grateful to each and every one for their time spent protecting us. I am honored to have the opportunity to share their stories and to join volunteers from across the country who are contributing to this project."

- MaryAlice Keller, New York, 20+ Pearl Harbor fallen stories

"After cutting my teeth on the Utah and D-Day projects I took a break but got back in the saddle for Pearl Harbor, and, boy, am I glad I did. The stories are fascinating at many levels. There is the element of shock from the surprise attack. Some families didn’t learn their loved one’s fate for months. These men were the first from their hometown to die, so they held a special place in local history. In many cases, they are still being honored decades later. My favorite story is Ensign Lawrence Williams of Ohio, the pilot of a two-seater aircraft who died on the Arizona. I found a Navy photo of him and his radioman, Glenn H. Lane, in their aircraft, taken two months before the attack. Lane survived the attack with injuries. I found Lane’s daughter, who told me he spoke of Williams many times over the years. Lane served 30 years in the Navy. When he died at age 93 in 2011, he had his ashes interred in the Arizona with Williams and his other shipmates. What a great example of the bond between the men who died at Pearl Harbor and those who survived."

- John Schlatter, Utah, 15+ Pearl Harbor fallen stories

"My grandfather was one of thousands of Americans who enlisted in response to the Pearl Harbor attack. After writing these stories, I better understand his strong sense of duty and responsibility to the Pearl Harbor Fallen. My grandfather survived the war and had a large family that remembers his life and service. Many of the Pearl Harbor Fallen were young men who died before they were able to have children of their own. I write their stories so that future generations can learn about and honor these American heroes."

- Kerry Stockdale, New Jersey, 20+ Pearl Harbor Fallen stories

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1 Comment

Gary Smith
Dec 08, 2021

I got involved with writing stories back in 2019 after watching a story about SBTS on TV. I contacted Don Milne and he got me started at the very end of the Utah Project. I continued on with the D-Day Project until it was completed. As I'm retired from the Army, I found that project moving as well as challenging. I hesitated on joining the Pearl Harbor Project and had planned on waiting for the Arlington Cemetery Project to get started. My father served in the Army in WWII and he arrived in Hawaii in Feb 1942 and was stationed at Schofield Barracks. Even though he wasn't there on 7 Dec 1941, he never talked much about his experience…

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