For a WW II airman, should death date be when he was shot down or when he was officially declared dead?

+6 votes
Eugene was one of ten crew members on a B-24 that was shot down by a Japanese plane over a Phillipine jungle July 10, 1943.  He was declared missing then, but was not officially declared dead until December 19, 1945.  I used the 1945 date, with modifier "before", but would it be better to use the 1943 date?

Also, if anyone cares to add appropriate military categories, stickers, or what-all, please feel free to go for it.

WikiTree profile: Eugene Allen
in Genealogy Help by Gaile Connolly G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

4 Answers

+5 votes
I think it would have to be the official declaration, there is no way to know if he died in the crash, or a while later from injuries.
by Living Poole G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+7 votes
I work on a lot of WWII MIA profiles. In many cases, the Finding of Death is a year and a day after the actual KIA date. It was a formal procedure. With the air force, I’m not certain of the strategy because there doesn’t seem to be a consistent time line. But these cases needed to undergo a formal review in order to determine if there was a chance that an airman was alive. I have been told that the military plans on reviewing all of the dates for MIAs and adjusting them to their actual date of death, not Finding of Death, to establish consistency. Some MIAs have their actual DOD officially recorded while others still have the FOD.

If an eye witness saw the death and clarified it, the actual date was assigned. If not, then an FOD was assigned.

In the case of airmen, though, a witness could see a plane blow up or crash in the water but the date still had to undergo review.

I would personally give the date that the plane crashed as his official date of death with a comment in his bio regarding the determination by the Air Force. December of 1945 was after hostilities had ceased and it diminishes the fact that he was in active combat when he died.

Also, I’m very interested in knowing the name.

by Barbara Geisler G2G6 Mach 1 (19.1k points)
+5 votes
If somebody is missing in action or mithing after a plan crash or an earthquake it is very difficult to find the exact death date. In Germany we have for that case a law, the "Verschollenheitsgesetz" (Missing Persons Act).

Concerning this law the declaration of death is a judicial decision of a local court, according to which a person is to be regarded as deceased according to the legal system.

Requirements for death certificate

The law on missing persons knows different deadlines for a death declaration:
General disappearance:
- 10 years from the last sign of life (5 years for persons older than 80 years)
- Children (in Germany persons younger then 14): from 25 years of age
- Soldiers at war: 1 year from the end of the year in which the war ended (war disappearance),
- Seafaring, in particular the sinking of a ship: 6 months after the sinking or the other event causing the disappearance (sea disappearance),
- Aircraft crash: 3 months after crash (airborne flooding),
- Other disappearances with danger to life: 1 year from end of danger to life.

You see it can be a big difference between the official declaration of death and the presumed date of death.

I personally would use the official declaration of death with the remarks "before" and the presumed date of death.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (3.1m points)
+2 votes
Does wikiTree have a "best practice" answer to this question?

I also have a relative whose aircraft was shot down during a sea battle in October, 1942, but was not declared dead until December 1945.

I think we should take into account what other websites use as their official date of death.  For instance, if find a grave uses the declared death date, and we use the missing date, then it will always turn up as an error that needs to be checked
by Mary Werner G2G2 (2.5k points)

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