Telling the Story of Those Who Served and Died in Wartime

Is there a special person who died while in U.S. military service during wartime who you are remembering this Memorial Day?

Each person who served in the military during a U.S. or foreign war and died before his or her time while making that effort, has a unique individual story. Some such stories are lost to history and recollection. But not all are. In fact, we ourselves may carry part of the story of a particular service member, who, though lost to war, nonetheless endures, still special and present to us.

Maybe it’s the story of one of the 6,000 Oregonians who served and died in war. Or maybe it’s the story of someone who lived outside the state and served and died from war and whose connection to Oregon is, well, us. Remembering a person who served in wartime and died as a result can of course be very hard, on Memorial Day or any day. Sharing their story is a deeply personal choice. At the same time, for many, recalling someone’s life and being willing to share how it intersected with service during wartime is a gift.

One story

For me, as a lifetime Oregonian, it is a gift on Memorial Day to be able to remember and appreciate the story of my cousin, Second Lieutenant Sidney C. Mink. Born in 1917 in Portland, Oregon, in the midst of World War I, Sidney was the only child of Russian immigrants Rose and Benny Caplin. Before Sidney’s first birthday, his father Benny died of Hodgkin’s Disease. Sidney then grew up mainly in Los Angeles, raised by his mom and step-father, Harry Mink. At 24, in the middle of World War II, Sidney enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming a bombardier flying B-17s . He died in battle on January 29, 1944, age 27, while flying over Hamburg Germany when he and his crew mates’ plane was shot down. He received a purple heart and two bronze stars.

Their story

Memorial Day in Oregon provides a way to make present, and potentially even more lasting, something from the past that has great meaning to us, namely the people we have lost to wartime military service. Simply by thinking about them on Memorial Day, we honor them. Simply by using the day to talk about their lives, we honor them. And we honor them simply by going, perhaps together with a friend or family member, to a local Memorial Day commemoration. When we turn our attention to what the people we have lost to wartime military service did–when we help tell their stories–they re-influence the world, in new ways.

Your story

Is there a special person connected to Oregon who died while in service during wartime who you remember on Memorial Day? Below in the Comments section is one place to share something about that person, if you like. What was his or her name? Which branch and war(s) did he or she serve in? What did he or she believe about life and service in America’s military?

Thank you in advance for your words.

Historical Perspective: Oregonians Who Died in War, By the Numbers

Oregon Service in U.S. Military
(By Major War or Conflict)*

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (1861-1865)

U.S. Total:
2,100,000 served
411,000 died

Oregonians:
1,812 served
48 died

SPANISH/AMERICAN WAR (1898)

U.S. Total:
280,000 served
2,446 died

Oregonians:
1,020 served
none died

PHILIPPINE/AMERICAN WAR (1899-1902)

U.S. Total:
125,000 served
4,196 died

Oregonians:
1,600 served
63 died

World War I (1917-1918)

U.S. Total:
4,700,000 served
116,516 died/
4,400 MIA

Oregonians:
44,166 served
1,030 died/
19 MIA

World War II (1941-1945)

U.S. Total:
16,112,566 served
407,316 died/
72,104 MIA

Oregonians:
150,000 served
3,832 died/
1,073 MIA

Korean WAR (1950-1953)

U.S. Total:
1,789,000 served
36,914 died/
7,481 MIA

Oregonians:
74,000 served
283 died/
55 MIA

Viet Nam WAR (1955-1975)

U.S. Total:
3,000,000 served
58,318 died/
1,579 MIA/
19 LKA**

Oregonians:
57,000 served
777 died/
28 MIA

FIRST GULF (IRAQ) WAR (1990-91)

U.S. Total:
700,000 served
148 died/
1 MIA

Oregonians:
54,000 served
4 died

IRAQ WAR (2003-11); WAR IN IRAQ (2013-17)

U.S. Total:
1,500,000+ served
4,586 died

Oregonians:
6,000 served
74 died

WAR IN AFGHANISTAN (2001-2021)

U.S. Total:
800,000+ served
2,459 died

Oregonians:
____ served
34 died

Oregonians who died in war
Flag in North Plains Oregon at half staff on Memorial Day.

It is very difficult to pin down exact numbers for U.S. military casualties related to particular conflicts. Reliable information about military operations–which often occur over large areas and periods of time–is widely scattered and/or otherwise hard to obtain. The U.S. military does not even disclose data on its intelligence and special operations missions. The United States may also sometimes declare a war or major conflict over, withdraw combat troops, but maintain a small military presence to deal with residual hostility within the war/conflict zone. Unless otherwise indicated, above statistics represent deaths of U.S. military personnel as a direct result of involvement in the theater/region where the war occurred (as opposed to anywhere worldwide) during the period of the indicated war/conflict.

* Research to complete this post is in progress…please stay tuned!

** “Last Known Alive” active cases.

References:
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_in_the_American_Civil_War
– Oregon Civil War History
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Oregon_Volunteer_Infantry_Regiment
– https//www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/oregon_unit_in_the_phillipines/
– https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/ww1/Pages/active-overview.aspx
– https://www.oregoncapitalinsider.com/news/final-victory-world-war-ii-75-years-later/article
– https://www.census.gov/history/www/homepage_archive/2017/june_2017.html
– https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-many-americans-died-in-korea/
https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna48415369
– Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
– https://www.governing.com/archive/military-civilian-active-duty-employee-workforce-numbers-by-state.html
– https://iowastatedaily.com/102478/news/pow-mia-statistics-from-all-u-s-wars/
– https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Experience/POW-MIA/
– https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3527804/dod-wont-stop-looking-until-all-powmias-are-home/
– Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency FAQs
– https://www.govinfo.gov/features/national-powmia-recognition-day
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