Green-Wood seeks help identifying WWII vets buried at the cemetery

Green-Wood in Winter Light Photo Credit Art Presson
Green-Wood Cemetery.
Art Presson

They want you to help identify veterans!

History buffs at Green-Wood Cemetery launched an effort Thursday to identify the possibly thousands of World War II veterans buried at the graveyard and researchers are looking for help from the public to find late Brooklynites of the Greatest Generation.

“Our dedicated team will spend countless hours on this important project. But you can become an important partner in this effort just by letting us know if you had a relative or friend who served in WWII and is interred at Green-Wood,” said cemetery historian Jeff Richman, who is leading the project. “It’s a simple way to preserve and honor their history.”

Richman and his team of researchers plan to dive into cemetery archives and public records to find people buried at Green-Wood who fought the Axis powers in the European and the Pacific theaters, as well as those who supported the troops at home, as the 80th anniversary approaches of the United States joining the war in December of 1941.

They will create an online database listing each vet along with a short biography using records like military pension applications and old newspaper clippings.

Some 326,000 Brooklynites — or almost one-in-eight of the borough’s population — served in the war and Richman said that even if only 10 percent of those are interred at Kings County’s biggest burial ground, it would still account for 32,600 people.

The grave of WWII veteran Raymond Francis Campion at Green-Wood Cemetery.Jeff Richman

Brooklyn’s largest cemetery has some 575,000 permanent residents across its 478 hilly acres, which could make singling out decedents who joined the war effort in uniform or as civilians difficult without leads.

“I’m hoping to hear from certainly children or grandchildren of World War II veterans, perhaps even veterans who survived, spouses, or neighbors,” Richman said. “A lot of what we need is this introduction.”

Starting in the early 2000s, the researchers were able to identify some 5,000 Civil War veterans buried at the 19th century graveyard, followed by 200 World War I vets they ID’d in 2017.

Richman and his fellow researchers will likely be able to find out more information of less famous soldiers, including lower-rank members of the armed forces like privates and corporals, due to better documentation.

It also helps that people who lived through that conflict are still alive, but the historian said it’s important to get the effort going soon.

“It’s time-sensitive,” he said. “Today is a better day than tomorrow.”

He plans to incorporate the new information into a walking tour this Memorial Day weekend and hopes the project will help honor the brave men and women who fought fascism abroad.

“These are people who were great patriots and left the easier life they were living to serve their country and I think we should recognize that and honor their service, and this is a small way of doing that,” he said.

Anyone with information about relatives or friends who served in WWII and are interred at Green-Wood should email [email protected] or call (718) 210—3045 with as much information as possible, including:

  • Name of serviceperson
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of death
  • Service details (for example: infantryman; Marine; pilot; nurse; civilian contractor, etc.)
  • Lot number at Green-Wood
  • Contact information for family
  • A photograph of the serviceperson