SALT LAKE CITY — The world just commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on Sunday. But a Utah man is honoring fallen World War II veterans who would have turned 100 this year.
He is telling some of their stories, one day at a time.
America lost 407,000 service men and women between 1941-45. They didn’t get homecoming parades, or a chance for long lives.
“Those people that served in World War II that never made it home don’t get the recognition like those that did make it home,” said Don Milne.
The Bountiful man makes sure to remember as many of them as possible, through his blog called WW2 Fallen 100. Milne does his own research.
“I got a membership to Ancestry.com, and started playing around, and noticed there was a lot of military information,” Milne said. “I start by looking at the gravestone registry that they have.”
That leads Milne to online photos of the fallen fighters, and their ships and planes. He can contact descendants to finish the stories. He has written 600 so far.
“And I plan to write one a day until the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which will be September 2, 2020,” he said.
Milne is now researching fallen soldier Alvin Fleming, who was born on November 24, 1918.
“I was excited to find that out, and that that date had not passed yet,” said Fleming’s niece, Nancy Vogt, who is also Milne’s coworker.
She will likely see her uncle’s story on what will have been his 100th birthday.
“He was always somewhat of a mystery, because that time was so painful that the family didn’t want to talk about it,” Vogt said of her uncle.
So far, Milne and Vogt have learned Fleming invaded Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, and died two weeks later.
“Those guys really put their lives on the line,” said Donald Mark Christensen of Colorado Springs, Col.
He was surprised when Milne contacted him about his father, B-17 pilot Donald Roy Christensen.
“I do remember him, although I was so young,” Christensen said. “I was about 2.5 (years old). My memories are almost more dreamlike.”
Enemy fire took out Christensen’s fighter plane over what is now the Czech Republic on March 2, 1945. Coincidentally, that was his widow’s 26th birthday.
“To memorialize these people and their service and their sacrifices, I think what Don’s doing is really commendable,” Christensen said.
Milne’s website honored the senior Christensen on his 100th, and 101st, birthdays in the past two Septembers.