World War II Memorial Research

World War II Memorial Research

World War II memorials and monuments often begin with site and monument planning. It seems reasonable, but if your memorial project doesn’t begin with a complete and accurate list of the men and women you wish to honor, your fundraising could fall short, or worse, you could end up missing some of your hometown heroes.

In fact, some of our clients have come to us with painstakingly-created lists, which were missing nearly 70% of the men who left their homes and jobs, went to serve in the war, and never returned.

Since memorial planners may be unaware that professional military records research is needed – or even available – memorials and monuments around the country are missing names that should be included. Many include names that are misspelled – and even some that are included in error.

Picture of WW2 Memorial - Here We Mark the Price of Freedom

Professional Research Can Help

Every memorial project should start with a complete and accurate list of names of the heroes meant to be honored. If your city, state, school or university, social or civic group is planning a memorial to honor your fallen heroes, professional military records researchers can help you ensure that your list is accurate and complete. As a first step, contact WW2 Research for a review of your list in the early planning stages. We can let you know whether your list may be missing names usually within about a week.

Who Are Your Hometown Heroes?

The first step in planning any memorial is to understand who you plan to honor. Complexities in WWII-era military record-keeping, records destroyed in a variety of ways, and other challenges make it very difficult to come up with accurate lists of Americans who were killed in action, missing in action, died as prisoners of war, and those who served honorably and died of non-battle causes while serving in the military.

Our researchers have been privileged to participate in dozens of group and memorial research projects, honoring young men lost in World War II, whose hometowns, states, schools, or universities are committed to honoring their service and sacrifice. In many cases, hundreds of names were missing from the original lists we received. But the good news is, they came to us to have their lists audited and completed before they built their memorials.

What About Non-Combat Deaths and POWs?

Between 20 – 25% of Americans who died while serving World War II perished in non-combat or non-battle circumstances. This means that between 80,000 and 100,000 American heroes died non-battle deaths while serving in World War II.

What if you are leaving them off your memorial?

Some memorial planners make the decision to only honor and remember the names of people who were killed in active combat. Often, this is because most communities and memorial planners –operating with the best of intentions – simply do not know that they need to check multiple sources to ensure that non-battle casualties are included. And they don’t know where to look.

If your planning does not include non-battle or non-combat deaths, some of your missing heroes who served honorably and sacrificed their lives in the war effort could include:

  • Flight-training crashes, either in the US or overseas
  • Other types of training incidents
  • Accidents, including transportation and work-related accidents
  • Illness, whether on or off the battlefield
  • Self-inflicted wounds
  • And veterans who died as prisoners of war

We have seen many instances of non-combat heroes being left out of their communities’ memorials. We think it is a disheartening choice – both for the memories of the fallen and also for their families.

The good news is, we have seen communities make the effort to add the names of their heroes died in non-combat situations. It is never too late to honor the service and sacrifice of these American heroes.

Common Mistakes in Planning a World War II Memorial

In our two decades of professional military records research, we have found a few mistakes that are common when planning World War II Memorials, including:

  • Lists built from a single online source
  • Lists built solely from public input
  • Consulting local historians and genealogists only, without also consulting a military records researcher. Genealogists and historians are a wonderful resource, but usually cannot locate all of the names that should be on your memorial.
  • Lists includes names only, without learning more about the heroes’ lives and sacrifice
  • Lists are compiled through war-era newspapers, which may be incomplete and rife with misspellings, especially of ethnic names from different parts of the world
  • Lists are not confirmed through professional research

In every case, it is commendable and honorable to design, build, and dedicate monuments and memorials to honor the men and women who serve protecting freedom and the homeland. WW2 Research would like to help you ensure that your lists are accurate and complete.

World War II Memorial Planning Tips:

  • Start your planning with building the most accurate list you can
  • Confirm with a professional military records researcher to ensure that your list is complete and accurate
  • Request a Stage One Audit of your list to be sure no one is left off or reported inaccurately
  • Consider learning more than just their names
  • With the help of professional research, in most cases, you can learn: Date, place, cause, and manner of death; their age when they died; hometown; branch of service, names of their (wartime) next-of-kin, and often other important and interesting information about their lives and service.
  • You do not need to include all of this information on the monument or memorial wall, but you can make it available to your visitors and for research.

WW2 Research | Memorial Research Services

Below is a summary of services we offer to help you plan a complete and accurate memorial:

  • Stage One Audit
    • Initial complimentary audit of your list (no cost to you)
    • Multiple source-check for missing or incorrect names
    • Deliverable: Summary of our findings and recommendations for next steps.
  • Full Audit:
    • Thorough review of all official military lists of ww2 dead
    • Cross-check against local or regional historical lists of ww2 dead
    • Include battle and non-battle deaths for each branch of service
    • Provide confirmation of whether original list is thorough and accurate
    • Provide recommendations to correct the list
  • Planning: Determining the scope and depth of the information you want to include, such as names only, or names, dates, casualty classification, branch of service, age, hometown, summaries of how they died, or other information.
  • Research Proposal and Cost Estimates
  • Research – including military and non-military sources
  • Deliverables – Depending on the services you choose, deliverables may include some or all of the following:
    • A spreadsheet with full list of names and all other requested data points
    • Copies of all military records obtained in our research
    • Copies of newspaper articles published about some or all of your war dead included in the memorial
    • Copies of casualty records, with complete details on the death and burial of some or all of your veterans
    • PDF versions of or links to original source materials, when available
    • Explanations of military records
    • Narrative service summaries for some or all of your heroes
    • Recommendations for making important deliverables available to the community and visitors to your memorial

What is a Stage One Audit?

A Stage One Audit is an initial, complimentary audit we conduct to see if there may be missing individuals from your memorial list. In a Stage One Audit, we check multiple sources to see if there are missing or incorrect names or other data on your list. This audit will help us make recommendations to you for next steps.

Please note that a full audit is required to provide a full and accurate list. A full audit is one of our primary services.

Request a Stage One Audit

Please fill out the form below and we will reply to you within one business day to schedule an introductory call and learn more about your project.

Next Steps

If you are in the planning stages of your World War II Memorial project, or if you are seeking to add names to an older memorial which you know or suspect to be incomplete, fill out the form below and let’s discuss your project. There is no charge for us to try to determine whether your list is complete.

Picture of quote carved in granite at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, Washington, DC: “They fought together as brothers-in-arms. They died together and now they sleep side by side. To them we have a solemn obligation.” Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

World War II Memorial, National Mall, Washington, DC
Image by Mark Thomas from Pixabay