Meet the writers who told the D-Day fallen stories
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
More than 120 volunteers from nearly three dozen states, plus France and England, have written stories for each of the 2,502 US WWII D-Day fallen. Here is what some of them have to say about the experience.
"When my daughter was born in 2014, I wanted to make sure she and my son had their family history documented. As I did the research, I realized we did not know what my grandfather did during World War II. Contacting the National Archives and speaking to a veteran who sadly passed away in 2017 that served with my grandfather, my perspective became more personal. They deserve to have their stories told and remembered for all time. We live free from tyranny because of their sacrifice."
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.” L Binyon’s For The Fallen
- Allison Albert, Rhode Island, 1 D-Day fallen story
"As a child, I learned about D-Day watching black and white history films. Fast forward to 1998 and Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” SPP dispelled any naive notions of the beaches’ assault. In my heart, I knew, intuitively, that the Allied invasion was the monstrous, sacrificial and yes, necessary passing of men on Normandy’s shores. That bloody day was freedom’s “stake in the ground.” In 2021, their deaths still proclaim fearsome warnings to evil in all its forms. Here I am, amidst freedoms secured by people I can never know. How could I not honor them by writing about their lives and losses?"
- Pam Baker, Alabama, 60+ D-Day fallen stories
"My Uncle passed away on 14 March 2014 (his 100th Birthday). He was a member of the 743rd Tank Battalion during WWII. In his later years I enjoyed talking with him about his service with the 743rd. As he approached his mid 90’s I began to bring up the possibility of him writing down some of the memories he had during this service. When the D-Day Project was announced I jumped in with both feet.
Doing this research is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the history of this beautiful country and those who fought and gave their lives to protect it."
- Steve Booth, Utah, 10+ D-Day fallen stories
"D-Day soldiers are the bravest of the brave. I think of those soldiers, most just kids, on landing craft, headed to Omaha beach. Its cold and windy, the sea is choppy and waves are splashing them and getting them soaked. They have many pounds of equipment and they can see the beach now, hear bombs, mortar, artillery. In a few minutes they will be in the thick of it. Some will live and some will not. And because of all those soldiers, and so many others, I am free, we are free. Writing these stories is the least I can do to honor them. If only I could do more."
- Molly Brown, Utah, 40+ D-Day fallen stories
"Little did I know when I joined this project how personally moved I would be. It has been a true honor to become acquainted with these brave men and their families. A lump often comes to my throat as I think of what "my hero" must have felt and experienced in their goodbyes and last hours of life. Tears have welled in my eyes as I read about the family receiving news and living with the reality that their hero would not be coming home. D-Day has become much more personal to me, as have the sacrifices of the brave."
- Emily Burnett, Utah, 2 D-Day fallen stories
"I have shared why I love doing this but, if I had to add anything it was really two pieces that came together when I was doing family research. I loved finding a "story" or letter that was shared on ancentry.com. It brought the distant relative to life and made a connection that DNA alone couldn't do. There weren't many stories on ancestry.com so I treasured them when I found them. The second piece is when I would find someone born in the 1920's and die in 1943-1945, I would automatically think, I bet they died in WWII. I thought it was sad that their entire life was left to "DOB" and "DOD" when they had given so much. Would my kids know this? Then along came "Story behind the Stars", I clicked on a link and it was as if someone was reading my mind. I could help make sure their stories are told and these fallen veterans are not left with just DOB and DOD."
- Tricia DeLatin, Louisiana, 10+ D-Day fallen stories
"To me, D-Day is one of the most important days in history. And yet what do we know about the young men and women who participated in the successful execution of Operation Overlord and died on the beaches of Normandy? Their life stories deserve to be told. Their ultimate sacrifices deserve to be honored. It is a privilege to be able to use my research and writing skills to create their profiles for the Stories Behind the Stars project."
- Joanne Dillon, New York, 9 D-Day fallen stories
“Working on Stories Behind the Stars D-Day Project has been an amazing experience. There is a feeling of accomplishment, culmination, gratification and triumph in bringing to light the stories of these brave, young, and somewhat forgotten heroes who gave their lives during WWII. The research done on each person was like opening a mystery novel, knowing how it ends, but excited and curious to discover all the details before the final chapter. As I worked on each story, discovering particulars about their parents, siblings, schooling and military experiences, there was a realization that I was discovering and sharing details about an extraordinary person.”
- Gene Ecker, Minnesota, 30+ D-Day fallen stories
"I research and write these stories because I always want to remember and honor those who paid a tremendous and terrible price for what I enjoy today. Their stories are inspiring and humbling! And I want to help others remember them, too."
- Wes Gibbs, Montana, 6 D-Day fallen stories
"As I live in Normandy, I use to walk on Omaha Beach, a peaceful place today.But the remains of the battle are still there and I am familiar with the area. D-Day is in all the memories here in Normandy and I am always glad and proud to remember these Heroes, give them a second life. They left their families, jobs and friends to land on the beach for the freedom. Lots of these Heroes are buried in the Normandy American Cemetery off Omaha Beach and they deserve our respect."
- Mathieu Guillemant, France, 4 D-Day fallen story
"History has always fascinated me, and I especially appreciate learning about the personal lives of people living in crucial moments in history. Doing so humanizes them and drives home the fact that yes, these were real people with families, friends, interests, and heartache. The individuals in war are often relegated to statistics and blurred together. D-Day was a turning point in the war, and I believed it would be a gross injustice to not remember the men who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy for the cause of an Allied victory."
- Erin McBride, Arizona, 3 D-Day fallen stories
"As an active Army Warrant Officer, with 23 years of service, who has seen how quickly those that should be honored can be forgotten as life goes on for the rest of us, it is my honor to volunteer. I have always realized we all have a story to tell, families to honor and accomplishments to share with the world. Many of our warriors have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and they need to be remembered. As time passes more information from that great WW2 generation is lost, we must complete these memorials for all of them."
- Steven McGee, Texas, 10+ D-Day fallen stories
"About a week ago, I was introduced to storiesbehindthestars by my niece, Emily, visiting from Salt Lake City, Utah. She knew of my military background and interest in history and thought I would enjoy researching other veteran’s stories. As it turns out, D-day has always been fascinating to me as a retired Naval Officer and pilot not only for the sheer size of the invasion force but for the incredible will and courage it took to be at the tip of the spear. My research presented me with one of the many faces of those who went in on the first wave, his family genealogy, personal life, and all the sacrifices he made to build a better world for his family and the rest of us. It was an honor to learn so much about this hero and gives me incentive to continue this important work."
- Kevin McIntire, California, 1 D-Day fallen story
"My father served in WWII in the US Army and he came home. My mother’s brother served in the Army Air Forces as a B-17 Gunner and he never came home. These soldiers never spoke about the war and were never spoken about after the war. So I write their stories so we will never forget them and record their sacrifices for history and future generations. Hopefully, the stories will help families get to know their fallen relative and why they never came home, we owe them that."
- Mary Peterson, Minnesota, 70+ D-Day fallen stories
"My husband and I visited Normandy and the American Cemetery a few years ago while we were in France. I was truly overcome learning more about what took place on D-Day and the bravery of those young men who stormed the beaches, many of whom never made it home. It’s an honor to learn about who they were and to tell their stories so that they will always be remembered for their great sacrifice."
- Pat Nauseda, Ohio, 20+ D-Day fallen stories
"The reason I am so passionate about writing for Stories of the Stars is because it has given me a way to appreciate why this generation was considered "The Greatest" generation. When you research each of these soldiers, they almost feel like a long lost cousin to me. I want to know more and more about each of these brave men.
It is an honor and a privilege to do this project so that each generation after us knows the sacrifice that these brave kids made for our freedom. It brings me to tears."
- Elizabeth Shaw, South Carolina, 60+ D-Day fallen stories
"I began writing for Stories Behind The Stars during the Utah Fallen Project in the summer of 2020 and immediately continued my work for the organization as soon as I heard another project was in the works. I have always had a fascination with the Second Great War and a vast adoration for the brave soldiers who gave their lives for the greater good. It saddens me deeply that the majority of these men remain unknown and unrecognized. However, writing for this project gives me a chance to make sure that even a fraction of them are not forgotten."
- Sophia Shapiro, Utah, 8 D-Day fallen stories
“In 2016 I wrote a book about the men and women who served in WWII behind the lines, people who had never been asked or had not had a chance to tell their stories. The SBTS project is a natural extension to what I had been doing, but this time I could honor the fallen by uncovering and telling their stories. I’ve helped profile the Georgia natives who fell on D-Day and those who were lost with the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. And, I am looking forward to discovering and sharing more!”
- Rona Simmons, Georgia, 10+ D-Day fallen stories
Ten years ago, I started researching my uncle who was killed by a kamikaze on the USS Hadley (DD-774). All I knew was that on 11 May 1945 at Okinawa he was KIA and buried at sea. My search took me to a Hadley reunion to meet his surviving shipmates. I wrote a book and told their stories. Thirty men were killed that day. Their stories amounted to name, rank, and serial number. They couldn’t tell their stories. The stories of all the fallen need to be told too. Volunteering for StoriesBehindTheStars.org is filling that void.
- Jeff Veesenmeyer, Wisconsin, 20+ D-Day fallen stories