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  • Don Milne

WWII Hero Died On The 4th of July

Updated: Jul 3


Eighty years ago this July 4, an America at war celebrated Independence Day.


Across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of American servicemen were prisoners of war in Japanese run prison camps in the Philippines. For them July 4 brought no liberty or independence.


One of these prisoners was 24 year old Ralph Waldo Emerson from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Emerson was a 21 year old possible widower when he joined the US Army in May 1939. After two years of service, he held the rank of corporal and served as a statistician for the 24th Pursuit Group, which was equipped with P-40 Warhawks. This unit was sent to the Philippines in the fall of 1941.


Corporal Emerson was captured by the Japanese after the American defeat in the Philippines. He ended up in Cabanatuan Prison Camp where he died on July 4, 1942.


His story was researched and written by Stories Behind the Stars volunteer Mac Kolar from Wisconsin. You can read more details about CPL Emerson on Together We Served or Fold3.


Anyone visiting CPL Emerson's cenotaph grave at Arlington National Cemetery can read his story via either the Together We Served or Find A Grave smartphone apps.


So far this year, Stories Behind the Stars volunteers have completed more than 2,000 additional stories of WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This is the latest project of this non profit initiative created with a mission to write the stories of all 421,000 US WWII fallen no later than September 2, 2025, the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II. Last year, volunteers wrote the stories of all of the 2,502 US D-Day fallen and all of the 2,341 Pearl Harbor fallen. They have completed 17,000 stories overall.


Stories Behind the Stars has more than 100 volunteers working on writing the remaining stories of the WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. We can always use more help to get through the remaining names faster.


It only takes 2-3 hours to research and write a story. Training and research material is available at no cost. To request more information visit here: https://www.storiesbehindthestars.org/volunteer


Questions? Email don@storiesbehindthestars.org.

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