Remembering the Fallen
By Jack Feuer
Published Apr 1, 2013 8:00 AM
Bruins were involved in every major engagement during World War II , from Pearl Harbor to the Battle of the Bulge to Okinawa. More than 200 members of the UCLA family gave their lives for freedom, but until a very few years ago, little was known about how almost all of them died. But now we do, thanks to history graduate and tireless researcher Bill Beigel '80, M.A. '83, who has been researching fallen Bruins' fates since 2009.
One fallen Bruin was a member of the legendary "Flying Tigers." Two others were killed on beaches on D-Day and seven around Normandy in the next two months. Eight perished in the Battle of the Bulge. Two fell to kamikaze attacks. Three had ships named after them. At least four died in Japanese POW camps. One died the day Paris was liberated. Four of UCLA's WWII dead were women serving as WASPs in the Navy.
About two-thirds of the fallen were students when war was declared. Some, however, were alumni, including Captain Francis B. Wai '40, a four-sport athlete while at UCLA who was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, for actions in the liberation of the Philippines from Japan in 1944. He was the first Asian American and is still the only Chinese American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Beigel is a contracts manager at Southern California Edison and is not a professional historical researcher. These are labors of love for the former history major, who charges only a nominal fee for his searches. He has aggregated the stories of soldiers who fell from Downey High School; a Rotary Club in Brownsville, Texas; and many other groups, and his network now spans the globe. But one ongoing search he is proud to do for free: collecting the stories of every Bruin member of the Greatest Generation who made the ultimate sacrifice.
For more information on Bill Beigel and his work, visit: www.ww2usakilledmissingpow.com.