- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

BEDFORD, Va. (AP) The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is working on a first accounting of American and Allied forces who died in the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion that broke Hitler's hold on Europe.
"There really is no accurate list of everyone who was killed," said foundation President William McIntosh. "The estimates people have cited spike as high as 12,000 and go as low as 5,500. When you have that kind of disparity, you know that more work needs to be done."
The foundation started compiling its list two years ago and hopes to adorn the memorial's central plaza next Memorial Day with bronze plaques engraved with the dead soldiers' names.
Like the invasion itself, it's been a messy business trying to track the more than 130,000 troops who spread across 50 miles of coastline as the Allies stormed France, said foundation researcher Carol Tuckwiller.
"There was so much confusion that day," she said. "The field reports kept changing. Months later, they were still determining the people that died there."
Miss Tuckwiller has been combing through national archives and various military databases since summer 2000, adding names to her list one by one. So far, she has confirmed about 3,700 fatalities and expects the number to grow to 4,500 lower than previous estimates.
Miss Tuckwiller also has another 1,000 names of soldiers who were missing in action after D-Day.
"Many of these are later turning up back on duty, or they showed up in hospitals in England, or later reports say they died of wounds in other battles," she said. "At that point, I'll cross them off my list."
Mitchell Yockelson, a reference archivist at the National Archives Modern Military Records Branch in College Park, Md., marvels at the amount of work Miss Tuckwiller has so far completed.
"It's an enormous task," Mr. Yockelson said. "There's not one consolidated source of records. You're dealing with different agencies of the War Department, and everybody records things differently."
There are "Morning Reports," stored in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, which commanders filled out to keep track of unit assignments and battlefield deaths. The microfilmed records are sorted by date, so to find the Normandy invasion, Miss Tuckwiller has had to sift through troop movements in Guam, domestic training reports and everything else the U.S. military happened to be doing June 6, 1944.
Unit reports and histories also were filed after the war, but they usually didn't provide dates of death. Agencies such as the American Battle Monuments Commission in Arlington also list soldiers who were buried in cemeteries overseas. But Mr. Yockelson said overseas records can be tricky because some bodies were buried and cataloged a day after death.
Miss Tuckwiller, a retired librarian from Roanoke, said she didn't mind sifting through the endless war documents. "I always liked this kind of research," she said. "And with something like D-Day, it feels like Christmas."
Besides counting names, Miss Tuckwiller has gleaned new insights into the invasion from the dusty paper documents.
"In some reports, the commanders said morale was low because the men didn't receive the mail that day," she said. "That's interesting you know, they were always trying to get families to write every day, and now you see why."
Her research also has cast doubt about the number of men Bedford lost during the invasion. For years, the rural Virginia community has said 19 of its 35 soldiers died on D-Day and four more were killed later in the invasion.
The sacrifice gave Bedford the unfortunate distinction of losing a higher proportion of its male population than any other locality, the primary reason the memorial was built here.
While 19 men certainly died in the opening moments of the invasion, Miss Tuckwiller said some of the others died much later. And some of Bedford's soldiers were not actually from the town but the surrounding county.
"We're not even sure now if 35 [total soldiers] is the right number to use anymore," Miss Tuckwiller said.


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