Guest post: Bill Beigel hopes to reunite US airmen’s histories with families searching for answers

By WW2 Researcher Bill Beigel on 02/07/2015

B-17 “Wee Willie” going down over Berlin on April 8 1945, just one month before the end of the War in Europe. This photo inspired my WWII research. I originally viewed the crash of “Wee Willie” in a TIME-LIFE history of World War 2 around 1971 at the age of 13.—Bill Beigel

American researcher Bill Beigel talks about his collection of American airmen’s casualty records, now available on the AAM website:

Today, I’m a full-time historian and American military casualty researcher. But as a young man, trying to help my dad learn what happened to a close relative who was killed in WWII, I learned how murky a process it is to learn the details of military deaths from that time. People received little or no information about how their family members died during wartime. It is possible today, but it’s not easy. Thousands of Americans are left searching for answers about what happened to their loved ones in World War II, and far too many have died not knowing. So, for about 15 years, I worked during evenings, weekends, and on family vacations helping people to piece together their families’ histories, or maybe to search out all the guys who died from a town or a county, or from a university like UCLA, my alma mater. In 2013, I bade adieu to corporate America to dedicate myself full-time to researching military casualties and telling their stories.

When I learned about the American Air Museum website project, I knew that I wanted to donate all of the American airmen’s IDPFs (Individual Deceased Personnel Files) that I had located between 1999 and 2014. I receive most of my researched records as paper files, so I hired a vendor to scan my entire collection of about 1,600 records into high-resolution, searchable PDFs.

At that time, I had records on more than 230 American flyers who were based in the UK. These flyers played pivotal roles in winning the war and I want each one to be remembered. I was more than pleased when the AAM accepted my donation offer and undertook the enormous task of importing the thousands of pages of PDFs into their website so that now, anyone can access them. In addition to donating the IDPFs, I wrote summaries for each of my guys (they really do feel like “my guys”) and added those to the site also.

I want these donated records to be a tribute to these lost airmen – to keep their stories alive. And I want to try to help a few more people find the answers they've been seeking.

You can find a list of the donated records here: http://bit.ly/-beigel-american-air-museum. At the American Air Museum website, in addition to the IDPFs, you will also find summaries of how each of these men died if you search their names in the site, or simply by searching on my name.

Bill Beigel

Comments

Staff Sgt. Claud D. Crews

By Hammsa1917 on 09/01/2016

Bill,
I contacted you in early 2000 regarding my Dads WWII military service. You found information that set the stage for me to discover so much more info. Thank You. C. Alpert

Mission Reports

By Ksmoore on 15/11/2016

I have been researching my dad's service as a ball turret gunner stationed at Thorpe Abbotts during WWII. I have seen many detailed mission reports from the 100thBG website and was wondering where those originated from. I'm relatively sure each mission had a de-brief and records were kept and retained, but I have no idea where I can begin researching those. My dad must have been a replacement gunner because he flew 36 missions on roughly 15 different planes. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

James O. Dunmire

By Acljodt on 17/03/2017

I recently uploaded several photos and news articles regarding a James O. Dunmire. A high school boyfriend and perhaps a little bit beyond of my mother. She saved these articles in a scrap book that included her service in the Waves. He went missing over Gotha in February of 1944 and listed as MIA that later changed to KIA. Check his crew photos and news papers articles I uploaded ib you want to add them to you research. Still trying to determine if indeed his plane was called Paper Doll.

looking for a friends father RALPH WONSEWICZ,WAIST GUNNER

By Ed rising on 02/02/2018

ralph wonsewicz was a waist gunner on a B17,started missions dec 24 1943 to april 5 1944,did see a article were plane was lost,but used Eiffel tower to find way back to England.looking for unit and plane if possible.thanks ed rising