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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

Every Single Utah WWII Fallen Has a Story Like These...

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

For the past 75 years the stories of the majority of the 400,000+ US WWII fallen remained unknown. For the first time ALL of the stories of the fallen from one state have been told.

Beginning in July 2020, 126 volunteers from Utah, and more than three dozen other states, took on the challenge of writing the stories of all 2,100 Utah WWII fallen. Six months later, all of these stories are accounted for. In the near future a smartphone app will allow anyone to visit the graves and memorials of these fallen, scan their names and read their stories.

In the meantime you can find their stories by searching for them on Fold3. Here are just a baker's dozen of the stories, picked by our volunteer writers, that will leave you wanting to read more:

7 Dec 1941 - Howard Merrill was born under challenging circumstances. His mother died when he was one month old. Despite this rough start, Howard thrived and was appointed to attend the US Naval Academy. After graduating he was assigned to the battleship USS Arizona. He was killed during the December 7 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first Utahn killed in World War II.

-- Stories Behind the Stars founder Don Milne, Kentucky, wrote 50+ Utah fallen stories

22 Jul 1942 - Ronald Luckey was captured by Japanese in the Philippines and survived the Bataan Death March only to succumb to malaria a few months later.

-- Steve McGee, Texas, wrote 11 Utah fallen stories

13 Nov 1942 - When he was 16 years old Orluff Oram lost a brother and his mother in a two month period. He joined the Navy and served on the destroyer USS Monssen, taking part in the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and was killed when Monssen was sunk in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

-- Preston Freitas, Utah, wrote 10 Utah fallen stories

27 Nov 1943 - At age 38, William Brandon was much older than the usual draftee and after a year of training he had the bad luck of being on the British transport ship HMT Rohna which was hit by a German guided missile and sank, killing more troops than were killed on the USS Arizona.

-- Valerie Wood, Utah, wrote 12 Utah fallen stories

6 Jun 1944 - Silver Star hero Edmund Duckworth fought in North Africa and Sicily, only to die on D-Day, 5 days after he was married.

-- Susan Singleton, Illinois, wrote 130+ Utah fallen stories

13 Jun 1944 - Silver Star hero Joseph Fitt parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and helped liberate the first town in France when he charged a tank and dropped a grenade down its hatch. He was killed by a sniper one week later.

-- Jenna Rabtzow, Colorado, wrote 20+ Utah fallen stories

7 Sep 1944 - Clay Rosenvall became a prisoner of war after the fall of the Philippines in the spring of 1942. He survived two years of brutal captivity only to be killed when the unmarked ship he was being transported on was sunk by an American submarine.

-- LuAnn Greenwell, Utah, wrote 70+ Utah fallen stories.

28 Oct 1944 - Despite being relocated to an internment camp with his family, Fred Yamamoto still volunteered to serve his country and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star after fighting to rescue American troops cut off by the Germans.

Randy Hervey, Colorado, wrote 90+ Utah fallen stories.

11 Dec 1944 - Robert Landes was an ensign on the destroyer USS Reid when it was attacked by a dozen kamikazes. After the order was given to abandon ship, Landes stayed behind to get as many men off as possible.

-- Molly Brown, Utah, wrote 30+ Utah fallen stories

20 Feb 1945 - Marine Tyndale Lloyd was a Salt Lake Tribune sports reporter before the war. As a Marine he earned the Bronze Star and fought at Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima where he died on the second day of the battle.

-- Mac Kolar, North Carolina, wrote 2 Utah fallen stories

31 Mar 1945 - Milo Mortensen took part in a ranger raid that rescued more than 500 POWs from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and was awarded the Bronze Star. He was killed a couple of months later while on a patrol behind enemy lines.

-- Jay Jones, Utah, wrote 30+ Utah fallen stories

17 May 1945 - William Thiessen was killed when a kamikaze plane hit the destroyer USS Douglas H. Fox. His widowed high school sweetheart never remarried and they are buried side by side.

-- John Schlatter, Utah, wrote 150+ Utah fallen stories

3 Aug 1945 - Jack Fuller was perhaps the last Utahn killed in battle by the Japanese, just three days before the first atomic bomb dropped. He left behind his widowed high school sweetheart.

-- Troy Burnett, Utah, who wrote 20+ Utah fallen stories

Now that all the stories of the Utah WWII fallen are accounted for, Stories Behind the Stars plans to recruit more volunteers to write the stories for the rest of the 400,000+ fallen from the other 49 states. With more volunteers like the 125 we had for the Utah pilot, we can get this done faster than imagined.

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